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Page 122
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 6
got to work taping and rolling out new runway
markers. They also painted twelve-foot-tall
arrows marking the new displaced threshold.
A runway displaced threshold was essential-
ly a series of arrows painted on the runway
that pointed to the touchdown area. The old
displaced threshold was back up the run-
way near the fence line adjacent to the Gates
property. We needed new markers because
the pipeline crew was hours from digging up
the offending pipeline, and we couldn't have
pilots landing only to find a trench in the
middle of the runway.
No sooner did the paint dry than a handful
of heavy duty trucks and three yellow hydrau-
lic excavators showed up and began scraping
away at the earth, channeling a giant stepped
V in the dirt. The excavators kept inching
forward, right through the old freshly-paved
runway. There was an art to digging up a pipe-
line and Bobcat Contractors, LLC was just the
artist for the job. The backhoe operator took
his time scooping up buckets of earth in thin
layers until he had a neat three-foot-deep and
three-foot-wide slot in the dirt. Then he shift-
ed his attention a few feet to the right and did
the same. He kept digging wider and deeper
in what resembled a massive stairway lead-
ing down to the pipeline. Once the operator
sensed the pipe beneath his bucket's teeth,
he gently skimmed the surface until the 20-
inch pipe was visible.
All this scraping and skimming took time.
In late September, a month into the job, the
excavation crew had the 20-inch line dug up
and pulled above ground as one continuous
piece of steel (nearly three times the length
of a football field). Atmos Energy then asked
me to sign a release acknowledging the exis-
tence of the old pipe, now resting in full view
above ground and impossible to ignore, and
made me promise not to do anything environ-
mentally inappropriate to the pipe before they
could hack it into sections small enough to fit
on a gooseneck trailer and haul it off.
Bobcat Contractors then lowered a massive
length of new dull green pipe in place, welded
forty-five-degree pipe fittings onto the north
end and capped it. When I visited in late Sep-
tember, I had a brief conversation with site
foreman Shorty Janek, who predicted the 20-
inch pipe would be in place, x-rayed, and hy-
drostatically tested by the end of the month.
"Fine as cream gravy," Shorty said when I
asked about the job.
"Any challenges?" I asked.
Shorty picked up a fist-sized rock and
looked at it and dropped it. "This here's easy,"
he said, indicating the rocky soil. "Some jobs
we got to call out the rippers and rock tren-
chers. That won't do it, we get to blasting. Not
here. You know that, of course."
I glanced at the long string of dull green
pipe at the bottom of the squarish trench, sec-
tions of the string resting atop wooden tim-
bers propping up the line.
"You know anything about welding a pipe-
line, `cause if you don't this here's not like
anything you ever seen."
I had been here before with the Houston
airport and therefore had a pretty good idea
how it all went together.
Shorty reached up and absently pushed at
the brim of his hardhat, which didn't budge.