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Page 143
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 8
Evaluating All My Options
I had two big issues to resolve and both
had to be settled at the same time: how to go
about buying the Zschiesche property, and
designing and building an airport that worked
equally well if: (a) I bought the adjacent prop-
erty, or (b) I didn't. That said, I called Frank
and told him the runway heading 13-31 was
fine. "But what do you say we move the whole
thing off the Zschiesche property?"
"What, they won't sell?" Frank asked.
"There's no telling. I need to move ahead
and I can't build a runway on land I don't own."
In truth, buying the Zschiesche property
was crucial to the airport for two reasons: The
additional land allowed me to build a longer
runway and the section that horseshoed its
way around the airport to the west allowed me
to locate the terminal and hangar buildings
about three thousand feet closer to SH130 and
save me the cost of building a lengthier road.
"Moving the runway's not a problem,"
Frank said, "but a five thousand-footer might
be tight. My guess is we'll have to go shorter."
"How much shorter?"
"Give me a couple of days and I'll have a
number."
The only remaining problem was moving
the runway closer to the creek, but not so
close we upset the flow of surface water into
and out of the duck pond, of which the United
States Army Corps of Engineers would take
issue.
Before we got off the call Frank asked, "So
what happens if the Zschiesches won't sell?"
Why Buying the Zschiesche
Property Wouldn't Be Easy
Raymond John Zschiesche and his wife,
Otillie Marcella, bought the family farm, all
370 acres, in 1949 for $54 per acre. The odd-
shaped parcel was mostly flatland and a few
shallow creeks, not so different from the
farmstead they'd left in Bartlett, Texas, about
an hour north. Raymond Zschiesche was
thirty-nine years old with a wife and three
children (Jimmy Ray, fourteen, Louis
"Speedy" William, eleven, and little Fran-
cine Priscilla Zschiesche) when the family
resettled in Manor.
Raymond Zschiesche farmed that piece of
dirt for the next nineteen years, first growing
cotton and a winter-season legume cover and
later maize and corn. He died in 1968, only
three years after Ray and Mary Harding had
bought the adjacent land-locked property and
begun grading the clay soil into a runway.
As Francine remembered it, the Hardings
and the Zschiesches were the best of neigh-
bors. As a teen, little Francine recalled affable
Ray Harding putting the finishing touches to
one of his self-built airplanes, and no sooner
than the last piece of whatnot was screwed
in place, Ray convinced her daddy to crawl
aboard and take a look at the family farm from
a few thousand feet off the ground.
Ray Harding had a way about him that be-
guiled people into trusting him. With a grin
and a steady voice, he cajoled anyone with-
in earshot to give in to the freedom of flight.
"Live a little," he'd say. "What could it hurt?"