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Page 87
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 4
area talking to land owners, looking for hand-
shake deals and, with any luck, hustling up
an investor or two with a lot of cash. It wasn't
until Bill Gunn, Director of Airport Compli-
ance with the Texas Department of Trans-
portation, Aviation Division, who had spo-
ken to each group separately, mentioned to
fellow pilot Rick Winter that another group
had the same idea that Rick approached Tim
Casey and both agreed to show their cards.
By then BN Group Development already had
options on the airport and the adjacent Ad-
ams property, which left Tim and Arlene with
little choice: Wish BN Group good luck with
the project or join forces and share the pot.
Joining forces made more sense and the five
would-be airport developers quickly hashed
out a partnership agreement under the aus-
pices of Eagle Rock, LLC.
Apart from the drama of competing real es-
tate developers, I also learned that the idea
of a new Austin area airport had a few things
going for it.
First, there was demand for local hangar
space.
In May 1999, the area's only commercial
airport, Robert Mueller Municipal Airport,
finally closed and moved its commercial traf-
fic to a freshly updated, $585 million, Austin-
Bergstrom International Airport, the former
Bergstrom Air Force base located southeast
of town. The move, while lauded by most, left
a gaggle of pilots feeling abandoned and 320
small aircraft with nowhere to park. A month
later, Austin's only remaining airport for pri-
vate aircraft, Austin Executive Airpark, for-
merly Tim's Airpark, sold to Dell, Inc. who
shut it down, leaving more than a hundred
additional airplanes looking for a new home.
To the aviation community, these two clos-
ings felt much like the blast from both bar-
rels. Private pilots had little choice for stor-
ing their aircraft but to scramble for a place
at Austin-Bergstrom International and, if
that failed, fly off to one of a handful of air-
ports, some more than an hour away. As a
side note to this sad story, many pilots went
to Georgetown Municipal Airport and re-
served tie-down and hangar space before oth-
ers beat them to it. Rather than thankful for
the business, Georgetown city leaders didn't
take kindly to Austinites crowding into their
airspace, and the city council quickly pro-
posed boosting fees to hangar and tie-down
renters--a surcharge, they said, to help pay
for a badly needed new control tower. After a
bit of haggling led by the city's own attorney,
threats, and a fair amount of name-calling, the
city council reluctantly changed course and
left rents the same as before.
Second, pilots all but begged for the touch
and feel of a friendlier general aviation airport.
As if knowing exactly how to antagonize
otherwise affable pilots, the wise leaders
at Austin-Bergstrom International politely
snubbed their noses at small aircraft owners
by ignoring them and failing to build a single
hangar to replace those lost when Mueller
Municipal shut down. Only after some tick-
lish legal quibbling led by the Texas Aviation
Association did Austin-Bergstrom Interna-
tional agree to build a paltry 54 T-hangars to
house small aircraft. Imagine a game of musi-
cal chairs, only with airplanes, and when the