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Page 79
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 3
chute all but collapsing and no more effective
than jumping off the roof with a bed sheet for
drag, sending the jumper straight down. So,
on Turkey Day, with plans already in motion
and fingers crossed, Dave flew low over the
house, the signal for Jeff (brother-in-law in ca-
hoots with this zany plan) to usher the family
outside for the show. Becky jumped, opened
her chute, and began a fast glide for the front
pasture. Once she dropped below the tree line,
all that forward thrust sent her straight for the
house and when she got there she was too
high and too fast, so she tugged on the brakes
to slow down, which worked well indeed. She
suddenly found herself motionless fifty feet off
the grazed turf with zero forward motion (an
absolute no-no for the high-tech ram-air para-
chute strapped to her back) and all thoughts of
a smooth landing out the door. Becky dropped
like a sack of potatoes smack-dab in the front
pasture, where she broke her back.
Thereafter, she spent ten days in the hospi-
tal and months in recovery.
What book about airplanes and pilots and
skydivers is complete without at least one
cautionary tale to scare readers, to make us
appreciate our good decisions and ponder our
bad ones, and to give us, for a few minutes, the
20-20 vision to lean back in our Lazy-Boys and
look over at a sweetheart and say, "There's
one mistake I won't make in this lifetime."
Becky healed, of course, completed her
master's degree and a doctorate in naturopa-
thy, and put in another 200 jumps. Eventually,
she asked Dave Mandot to teach her to fly.
First in the tried-and-true Cessna 150 and lat-
er in a much larger and super-sleek twin-en-
gine Cessna 421 (with nearly twice the cruise
speed). Becky went on to earn her commer-
cial pilot's license, eventually was hired by
Southwest Airlines, made captain, and recent-
ly passed 21,000 flight hours.
As for Becky and Dave, they're still togeth-
er after twenty-eight years.
The Center Shuts its Doors
Then in December of the same year, 1983,
the world came to an end. The funny thing
was, no one saw it coming, Henry Stone es-
pecially. For one lousy weekend, breaking
a string of perfect attendance at the jump
center, Henry opted to go camping. He had
a splendid time swatting mosquitoes, watch-
ing some kind of beetle and other bugs that
should have been long gone this late in the
year fly around the fire.
When he arrived at the airport the next
weekend, he braved the muddy road and made
a right turn at the pond. The bald cypresses
were as bare as toothpicks. His truck lurched
forward, the idle higher than it needed to be,
pulling him along, and he looked ahead and
could see a piece of paper stuck to the large
metal door of the jump center. From here it
had an official bearing to it, like a terse FAA
notification, or an unfriendly eviction notice,
or a USDA salmonella warning, or a build-
ing code violation or an OSHA reg infraction.
Whatever it was, it looked like bad news.
He inched forward, no one in sight on a
Saturday morning. Henry was often the first
to arrive, but it wasn't that early and someone
should have been poking around. He pulled
the truck up to the building, his front bum-