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Page 188
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 11
I had won.
In hindsight, I think I got a pretty good deal.
It's impossible not to compare one item's
price to another. By that, I mean I had just
paid $38,000 for one of a handful of bona
fide supersonic Concorde engines while oth-
ers paid up to $2,000 for a single badly worn
passenger chair. A Concorde engine is worth
nineteen passenger chairs, isn't it?
I was excited--elated, really. I had just
bought a supersonic Concorde engine.
Only in a way I hadn't.
Negotiating Delivery
What I didn't foresee was that British Air-
ways would only approve delivery of my new
engine after they had completed a thorough
screening of the buyer, me.
The following week, a representative from
British Airways sent me a pedantic cover let-
ter that explained little and requested that I fill
out the attached form. Basically, the company
wanted to make sure I wasn't a crazy, some
eccentric aircraft builder who planned to bolt
my slightly used supersonic engine onto a
homemade fuselage and launch myself into
the air at Mach speeds. I did my best to fill
out the three-page questionnaire: Who was I?
Where was I based? If a company what was my
financial status? And the big question: What
exactly did I plan to do with the engine. Just
to be safe, I hired a lawyer to help me craft
appropriate and legally-defensible responses.
I returned the questionnaire via express
mail and waited. A month went by and I didn't
hear a thing. I called the DoveBid offices, sev-
eral times, to see what was taking so long, but
no one bothered to return my calls. When I
finally did get hold of an actual person, I was
given a variety of slightly unbelievable alibis
for the delay. At some point, a sweet-sounding
woman threw up her arms, or so I imagined,
and blamed all of the foot-dragging on British
Airways, a notorious foot-dragger she seemed
to imply, who apparently was in no hurry to
sign off on my application. "Until we get offi-
cial word," the woman said, "we can't proceed,"
meaning, they refused to send me an engine I
had long ago paid good money for.
In May, nearly eight weeks after winning
the bid, British Airways gave me the nod.
Next I had to locate a British Airways-certi-
fied shipping company capable of hauling an
eight-thousand-pound engine from London to
Houston. My Executive Director of Finance,
Roberta Long, who routinely took on many
critical and sometimes cumbersome projects,
got the task of locating a shipping company
to handle the job. That done, in late June Zust
Bachmeier International (ZBI), a freight for-
warding company with offices in Humble,
Texas, and Airdrie, Alberta, Canada, flew over
to Birmingham, United Kingdom, and packed
up my four-ton engine and its attached steel
stand. The ZBI crew wrapped the whole thing
in a giant plastic bag, the largest bag I'd ever
seen, intended I suppose, to protect all the ti-
tanium, nickel alloy, and other exotic metals
used to make the engine from the corrosive
effects of salt water, and placed the entire
thing inside a specially made wooden crate.
Industrial shipping isn't cheap. The boat
ride itself set me back a pretty penny ($6,800).
Add in merchandising fees ($210), harbor