June 8, 2011

Over the past 11 years, the story of general aviation in the Texas capital has been one that would make even singer Jerry Jeff Walker weep. With the conversion of Bergstrom Air Force Base into the city’s commercial aviation facility and the closure of both Mueller Airport and the old Austin Executive, some 300 general aviation aircraft owners were suddenly homeless.

Now, thanks to aviator and entrepreneur Ron Henriksen, GA has a home once again, as of today, in Austin.

“Bergstrom didn’t quite have the facilities,” said Andrew Perry, vice president for development at the new Austin Executive Airport (KDEC). “They thought [Austin Executive] was going to handle GA, but about six months later, Austin Executive closed. They have a Dell Computer campus there now. So that really changed the dynamics in Austin over the last eleven years or so.”

Henriksen bought the old Bird’s Nest airport, along with some adjoining land. He expanded the runway to more than 6,000 feet and created one of the most iconic FBOs in the Southwest.

“We built a brand new facility,” Perry explained. “We even waited an extra six to eight months so we could open with the FBO rather than a temporary facility. It’s a gorgeous facility, about 27,000 square feet. We did an arrival canopy as well. I can fit a Boeing 737 under the canopy. It’s about 140 feet wide and 80 feet deep.”

Perry said the facility is already filling up, given the high demand for hangar and transient space in Austin.

“We’ve had a waiting list for hangar space and transient traffic,” he said. “We’re a private airport and a private FBO and customer service is the bottom line. We’re going to provide excellent services to GA and the corporate world.”

Although it’s been open for approximately three weeks now, Austin Executive staged its official grand opening on June 8. In typical Texas fashion, the event featured a barbecue, open house and speech-making by local officials.

NBAA Southwest Regional Representative Steve Hadley also took part in the grand opening program, presenting on the value of the new airport to the local economy, and in providing NBAA Member companies with another point of access to important business markets.

Both the airport and the FBO are now open for business. Be sure to check out the Concorde engine in the lobby of the FBO. Perry called it a real point of pride at the airport.