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Page 147
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 8
Thereafter I waited. And waited.
And waited.
How Strong is
Strong Enough?
In mid-December Frank needed answers
before he could wrap up the construction
drawings and get the contractor to work on
Stage 1 Construction. The question that most
nagged at him was, how strong was strong
enough? This referring to the design of the
I had two concerns. First, I didn't want to
build a multi-million-dollar runway and have
it age before its time, crumble, and cause
some airport owner decades down the line
(possibly me or my own family) to have to
contemplate rebuilding an obsolete run-
way simply because I had failed to think far
enough ahead. Second, I wanted a runway
tough enough to handle large jet aircraft and
a runway stronger than those of my competi-
tion, which included Austin-Bergstrom Inter-
national, Georgetown Municipal Airport, San
Marcos Municipal Airport, Lockhart Munici-
pal Airport, New Braunfels Municipal, and
Giddings-Lee County Airport.
When you got down to the nitty-gritty, run-
ways, like the one planned for Bird's Nest
Airport, had three main ingredients: asphalt
on top, crushed rock in the middle, and lime-
treated dirt underneath it all, the lime used
to stabilize our Jell-O-like Central Texas clay
soil. The trick to both wear and strength was
how much of each went into the mix. I was told
a typical combination for light aircraft was 2
inches of asphalt, 6 inches of crushed stone,
and 8 inches of lime-treated soil, all guaran-
teed to handle a 30,000-pound, single-wheel
aircraft at around twenty departures a day.
So what happened when a heavier airplane
touched down, say a Gulfstream G550 or a
Hawker 4000, any one of them a genuine pos-
sibility for Austin area executives traveling
around the country on business. And what hap-
pened when the number of landings exceeded
twenty, or say two hundred, two thousand?
The minimums wouldn't do and after much
research and discussion with airport engineers,
road builders, and my own accountant, I decid-
ed to pay up and nearly double the thickness
of everything--3.5 inches of asphalt, 19 inches
of base, and 13 inches of lime-treated soil. Why
it was so important to me that the runway last
forever or be capable of holding up to bulging
aircraft twice as heavy as those it might typi-
cally handle, I couldn't say. The stronger run-
way came at a cost, an extra $1.8 million, and
though you might not believe it, just believing
I had built a thing of substance and quality, to
me as least, was worth every cent.
A Counteroffer
More than a month after revising my origi-
nal offer and hearing nothing, I e-mailed Fran-
cine and made a pitch to buy just 52 acres,
what amounted to one leg of the horseshoe-
shaped property, located nearest SH130, for
an unthinkable $20,000 an acre. This was a
hilly parcel of land I'd have to spend scads flat-
tening into a pancake and the least desirable
slice of the entire tract. My idea was to relo-
cate the terminal building and hangars from