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AOPA on the spot to push for new Central Texas airportAOPA on the spot to push for new Central Texas airport

AOPA on the spot to push for new Central Texas airport

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AOPA Regional Representative Shelly Lesikar and Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn (not shown) met with legislative aide Jason Nelson to support the bill creating
a new GA airport in Central Texas.

AOPA has once again stormed up the steps of the Texas capitol to support the creation of a new general aviation airport to restore the GA facilities lost when the city of Austin closed Robert Mueller Field. It's a battle AOPA has been waging since 1991.

On Wednesday, AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn and Regional Representative Shelly Lesikar met with Texas legislative officials to lobby for House Bill 2656, which would create a new Central Texas general aviation airport near Austin and provide state funds to help build it. The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Mike Krusee, chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee.

"Our members continue to tell us they need new GA facilities in Central Texas," said Dunn, "and ever since I started at AOPA, it's been a top goal for us to make that happen."

In the early 1990s, the city of Austin began planning to close Robert Mueller Field, an airport that served general aviation exceptionally well with its close location to the city, and transfer both GA and commercial operations to the distant former military airfield at Bergstrom Air Force base. Local pilots and AOPA recognized that that would not serve GA well and began lobbying to keep Mueller as a GA-only facility.

The city promised - but never delivered - equal facilities for GA at Bergstrom. So AOPA began efforts to get a new GA airport built.

In 1999, AOPA nearly succeeded in getting a bill that would have required the state to takeover Mueller, downsize it, and operate the airport as a strictly general aviation facility. But then Gov. George W. Bush indicated he wouldn't sign the bill.

In the 2001 legislative session (the Texas legislature meets every other year), AOPA helped get House Bill 2522 passed and signed by Gov. Rick Perry. That started the Texas Department of Transportation on a project to identify sites for a new airport. Unfortunately, local officials wouldn't approve any of the three locations TDOT had picked.

"This latest bill reenergizes the process of building a new airport," said Dunn, "and for the first time, it provides some state funds to do it.

"AOPA will continue to advocate to make it happen."

March 23, 2005

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