December 13, 2010
By Dan Namowitz
It started with an open house and a lot of high hopes. Three years later, a blossoming success story is attracting widespread media attention and bringing new growth to thriving Sugar Land Regional Airport, located 17 miles southwest of Houston, Texas.
It was the summer of 2007 when Sugar Land Airport’s open house gave thousands of Houston area residents a chance to inspect the first stages of the Houston Hobby reliever’s redevelopment. Newly launched projects included a new 20,000-square-foot terminal facility, facilities for U.S. Customs, and 100 new general aviation hangars to be readied by the fall of 2008.
The year 2008 turned out to be a tough year as the national economy experienced extreme setbacks. But when conditions began to improve, Sugar Land’s operations and fuel sales got back into growth mode—and now the airport is emerging in a new role as a strong player in the air-charter business.
Business news publications are taking notice. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle’s business pages detailed the remarkable transformation of Sugar Land from the grass strip with a temporary tower and a windsock remembered by longtime area residents to “a source of civic pride in a burgeoning community where the description ‘suburb’ feels inadequate.”
Not to mention more than 40,000 annual operations and healthy numbers of piston singles, twins, and jets based at the field.
The article, featuring interviews with aviation director Phillip Savko and airport business operators, provided clear testimony of how millions of dollars worth of upgrades created an aviation environment in which companies could prosper at Sugar Land, profiting from the region’s opportunities offered by serving energy-related businesses. The resurgent airport has also twice earned Aviation International News honors for its fixed base operations, based on an annual survey.
The Sugar Land news coverage marks another kind of positive turnaround. In 2007, AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer Seth Riklin rolled up his sleeves to help the airport fend off distorted reporting on general aviation airport security. The successful project to counter the distortions strengthened ties between AOPA, the airport community, and city officials, earning Riklin honors as AOPA’s October 2007 Volunteer of the Month.
Collaboration between the German government, academia, and airplane manufacturers may make future aircraft cabins more protective of pilots and passengers. The Safety Box team plans to apply auto racing technology to general aviation.
A father and his 14-year-old son were helping another pilot ferry a newly purchased aircraft from California to their home field in Virginia. The three made an overnight stop in Albuquerque before flying on to Illinois for fuel. But shortly after they parked the aircraft in Marion, Ill., they were approached by as many as 18 uniformed and non-uniformed law enforcement officers who came running toward the airplane.
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