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Page 60
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 3
The Workaround
What Jerry didn't know was that Robert
Mueller Municipal Airport wouldn't formal-
ly shut its doors for another eighteen years.
What he did know in those first weeks of
1981, without a modicum of speculation, was
that he'd blundered into a quagmire. To get
his feet on solid ground he sought the advice
of Tom Montemayor, the only flight instruc-
tor still on the payroll and a longtime Bird's
Nest pilot.
"Okay," Tom said. "Well, let's see. We're
down to one flight instructor, me, and one air-
plane for rent, and I've got four students at
different stages of training. I have an obliga-
tion to help these people get their license."
"Of course," Jerry said.
"Well, look at this place," Tom said as if
Jerry had chided him with a friendly "Go on,"
which he hadn't. "We don't answer the UNI-
COM, the rotating beacon is burned out, half
the runway lights are dead, no fuel, no mainte-
nance, no 24-hour service, yet the charts and
the Texas Airport Directory claim we have all
these things."
"I see."
The conversation took place in Jerry's
small office, Jerry seated, leaning forward
with both hands on the scuffed metal desk.
Tom standing in the doorway, grinning but
serious about the shabby condition of things.
"Let me ask you. What are you going to do
when the FAA rolls into town and knocks on
our door to ask about these things?"
"One thing at a time," Jerry said.
"That's what you plan to tell them?"
Jerry suppressed a laugh while he consid-
ered the serious predicament.
"Look," Tom said. "I don't even have keys
to the flight office. My students arrive after
work and there's no place for training."
In all fairness, Jerry spent countless hours
at the airport, and Tom was the first to ad-
mit it, but the president of Bird's Nest Avia-
tion, Inc. was also a man of schedules, and
his schedule didn't call for 24-hour babysit-
ting of an airport with less revenue than a
teen working at Schlotzky's. "You have a key
to the 152?" Jerry asked.
"I do."
In these lean times everyone had a work-
around and Tom's modus operandi was better
than most. When a student showed up after
hours or early on a weekend, the two met in
the parking lot, climbed into Tom's car where
it was warm, and Tom quizzed him about sys-
tems and airmanship and weather and navi-
gation and aviation regs. Once ground school
was out of the way, they scrunched into the
Cessna 152, buckled up, and took off. Or,
that was the plan. That February was a cold
one, in the twenties most days, and normally
aspirated airplanes hate cold. He recalls the
Cessna's battery chugging and chugging, the
prop wiggling and wiggling until it stopped
wiggling and the battery stopped chugging.
The fuel truck (sans fuel) was good for a jump
if it'd start, which it often didn't, and none of
that mattered because now that he got a good
look, Tom noticed that the airplane's tire were
nearly flat and the nearby air compressor was
Tom couldn't remember a time he hadn't