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AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 2
ways, the regional mood was liberal and anti-
government; that was also the spirit of Bird's
Nest Airport. Forget the Vietnam War. Forget
the oil crisis; forget stagflation; come learn to
fly. Ray and Mary's one hundred and thirteen
acre sanctuary located a dozen miles north of
Austin down a bumpy dirt road had a unique
culture all its own. You could feel it the mo-
ment you arrived--asynchronous, implausi-
bly casual, a place where the far-fetched was
the rule not the exception.
Roy Scott tells a story of flying with a hesi-
tant student (let's call him Chip to keep from
embarrassing anyone) in a J-3 Cub, a tandem
aircraft, with Scott up front and Chip behind
absently tugging on the front seat. The two
are flying low and to get Chip to relax Scott
tells him to stick his hand out the side win-
dow. Get some air, feel the force of the wind.
Chip is nervous and flushed and Scott prods
him, but he won't budge.
"Go on," Scott says, "nothing's going to
happen."
"You sure?"
"What could happen?"
The window is hinged at the top and Chip
pushes on the bottom but not hard enough to
let any air inside.
"Go on, already," Scott says.
"I'm not going to get sucked out or anything?"
"Are you kidding me?"
"Okay, okay." So Chip pushes on the glass
and shoves his hand out the window, and a
half-second later he's screaming and clutching
at Scott by the back of the shirt. Scott glances
right and sees outside the window a live an-
gry yellow cat clawing at Chip's wrist and arm,
ready to jump and holding on for its life at the
same time. The cat is hysterical. Chip is shud-
dering, breathless, panic-stricken.
A moment later, the cat lets go.
Scott sees the cat spread its legs like a
flying squirrel and coast soundlessly out of
sight. This all happens three miles north of
the airport. Once they land and taxi to a stop
and shut off the motor, Chip hears six meow-
ing baby kittens tucked deep under the pilot's
seat. Scott and Chip spend hours searching
the local milo fields for the airborne cat. Milo
is similar to maize, with more side shoots
and branches, making for a softer land-
ing. No cat. Here in the telling Scott grows
moodily silent. It's a storyteller's ploy, but
it works. When he's ready, he says, "Three
days later, the cat wonders back to the airport
sporting a slight limp and goes about search-
ing for her kittens."
His Own Cessna Dealership
By 1976 Ray Harding had a rental fleet of
four Cessnas and his trusty Piper J-3 Cub. He
had a second Cub in the shop about ready to
add to the fleet. The new flight office went
up faster than anyone expected and soon a
Cessna rep, Brad Lee, showed up in the office
and offered Ray a dealership. The dealership
came with benefits, training for the airport's
flight instructors and mechanics at Cessna's
training center, and in some ways it gave the
airport an air of legitimacy. The lifeblood of
any small airport is ensuring a steady flow of
flight students. Someone came up with the