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Page 29
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 2
Dreams don't materialize overnight and
neither did Ray's. For years, he had been a
member of the Experimental Aviation Asso-
ciation, Chapter 187, in his hometown of Aus-
tin, Texas, where members built airplanes
in their spare time and met regularly to talk
bungee linked ailerons and V struts and zero-
dihedral wings. Ray wanted an environment
where members could gather and tinker and
share ideas, and with enough space to assem-
ble airplanes one part at a time.
By 1960 he was ready to take action. That's
when Ray and his wife, Mary, bought an old
motorcycle and began roaming the country
roads around Austin in search of the perfect
parcel of land. It had to be long enough for
a runway, close enough to Austin to attract
area pilots, remote enough to avoid over-
head power lines, and cheap enough for even
a fifth-grade school teacher to afford it. For
five persistent years, Ray and Mary sputtered
up dirt roads and across bumpy pastures in
search of a flawless tract of Texas red clay.
Eventually they stumbled upon a land-
locked piece of hardscrabble not far from
Manor, Texas. The property was basically
flat, if you ignored the big dip north near
the fence line. It was easy to access, if you
overlooked the muddy easement road along
the adjacent property with potholes the size
of small cars and which the property owner
flatly refused to allow anyone to grade. It had
water, if you counted the sludge in the duck
pond surrounded by cypress and willow trees
and filled with martin and starling and chick-
adee, all birds with a bad habit of colliding
with small aircraft propellers. The property
had room for a runway, if you flew like a bush
pilot and didn't clip the stand of bald cypress
along the property line after takeoff.
In all, it was perfect.
Ray negotiated a price of $330 an acre, just
over $37,000 in total, a small fortune in 1965,
and he and Mary closed on the deal before
some other idealistic airport builder beat
them to it. Step one--finding the land--was
behind him. Step two--grading a runway--
would happen once he saved up to pay a
grader. Step three--building a control tower
and flight shack--was in the distant future.
Step four--hangars. Step five--well, he didn't
know step five or any of the hundreds of steps
to follow, but given enough time he was confi-
dent he'd make do just fine.
Locating the land took five long years.
Building a runway free of holes and patches
of mud took another year. The first thing he
did was to hire a grading contractor to scrape
and level a runway stretching corner-to-cor-
ner across the property at a magnetic head-
ing of 340 degrees, directed into the prevail-
ing winds. When the contractor left, Ray had
a dirt runway 25 feet wide and 2,722 feet long.
What he needed next was a turf to cover
his scraped soil before a hateful Texas rain
washed away much of his new runway. Any
handful of grasses would work for runway
turf--red top, brome, rye, meadow fescue,
crested wheat. Ray selected a hearty coastal
Bermuda, which cost several hundred dol-