AOPA President Phil Boyer presents Texas State Senator Ken Armbrister with an AOPA Presidential Citation.
At a Pilot Town Meeting in Houston last night, AOPA President Phil Boyer paid tribute to Texas State Senator Ken Armbrister for shepherding through the legislature a bill authorizing construction of a new airport in central Texas.
Boyer said Sen. Armbrister's hard work was crucial to the bill's passage and presented him with an AOPA Presidential Citation. "Without all of Ken's effort," said Boyer, "general aviation pilots in central Texas would face a much bleaker future. Ever since Austin-Mueller and Austin Executive airports closed, there has been a critical need for a GA reliever airport in the Austin area."
The problems go back at least a decade, when the city of Austin drew up plans to convert Bergstrom Air Force Base into a civilian airport. The original plans made absolutely no provision for general aviation at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, while calling for the closure of Austin-Mueller, where 280 GA aircraft were based.
Texas aviators and AOPA fought hard to get a spot for GA at Bergstrom. Early success was limited, with a little bit of space being grudgingly provided, but nowhere near enough to satisfy the FAA guidelines that "the availability for public use of a new and better airport is the basis for determining that the old airport [Austin-Mueller] is no longer needed...."
Austin-Mueller's closure also had significant implications for the National Airspace System and pilots flying through central Texas. Coupled with the almost simultaneous closure of Austin Executive, Austin-Mueller's closure left no viable reliever airport for Austin Bergstrom.
Even now, hangar and tiedown availability for GA aircraft at Austin-Bergstrom does not match what was available at Austin-Mueller.
"But now, thanks to Senator Armbrister's leadership in the legislature, things are finally looking up for GA in central Texas," said Boyer. "And last week's announcement that the FAA has granted $500,000 to the Texas Department of Transportation to plan the airport means that things are truly beginning to move forward."