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Page 89
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 4
music stops more than four hundred airplanes
circle the patch, zeroing in on Bergstrom's 54
T-hangars.
To make matters worse, Austin-Bergstrom
International needed to recoup the cost of the
airport and did so in several dumbfounding
ways. One was to charge colossal rents to the
airport's two Fixed-base Operators (FBOs).
Think of an FBO as an old-fashioned gener-
al store, a business that provides goods and
services to small and corporate aircraft own-
ers and other operators located at the airport.
The airport's two FBOs naturally passed on
the higher costs to pilots by charging a land-
ing fee (something unheard of at nearly all
of the smaller airports across the state) and
bumping up the price of aviation fuel by a dol-
lar or so per gallon. As the consummate insult
to general aviation pilots, Austin-Bergstrom
International then burdened pilots with new
T-hanger requirements, including $1 million
in aircraft liability insurance coverage and an
additional $1 million in auto insurance cov-
erage (that is, if you had a notion of driving
your car anywhere near the hangar). Not sur-
prisingly, these coverages were impossible
unless you had a large net worth. Wily pilots
worked around the problem by forming the
Bergstrom Pilots Association and obtained
umbrella coverage at acceptably preposter-
ous rates.
Third, the FAA was on Bird's Nest Airport's
side.
When Robert Mueller Municipal Airport
finally shuttered its doors and hundreds of
small aircraft left, the Texas legislature de-
cided to do something about it. That some-
thing was to set aside a pile of money to com-
mission another study. In fact, in the last
several years a number of organizations and
municipalities had commissioned studies to
determine what, if anything, could be done to
improve the state of general aviation in Cen-
tral Texas. At the root of these studies was a
simple question: Did Central Texas need an-
other airport and, if so, where should it be
built? Formal investigations on the subject
included the Pflugerville Airport Site Selec-
tion Study (December 2000) and the Central
Texas Airport Phase I Feasibility Study (July
2003). In this last, the Texas Department of
Transportation needled the FAA to come up
with a definitive location for a new general
aviation airport near Austin. That location,
the FAA reckoned, was Bird's Nest Airport,
what FAA staffers pointed to as the only vi-
able location to handle overflow traffic from
Austin-Bergstrom International and thus to
receive official FAA reliever status.
In a more recent study, the Georgetown Mu-
nicipal Airport Master Plan Update (July 2005)
pointed out that Travis County, which includes
Austin and Bird's Nest Airport, and adjacent
Williamson County, which includes George-
town Municipal Airport, were two of the fastest
growing and wealthiest counties in the state,
home to 1,147 aircraft and 2,642 pilots.
Fourth, Bird's Nest Airport was in the per-
fect location.
In late 2006, only months before members
of Eagle Rock, LLC approached me about the
airport, the first section of the $1.5 billion SH
130 toll road opened for traffic, and it was the
section that ran past Bird's Nest Airport.