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About Us - The Story of the TXAA

Our goal is to preserve and protect
Texas airports and to advance public understanding of general aviation
to the citizens of Texas.

 

THE START
In 1999 there was a grass roots effort to save Robert Mueller Airport in Austin, Texas. “Friends of Robert Mueller” was formed after it was learned that the city of Austin planned to close the airport and move all commercial and general aviation facilities to the new Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

“Friends of Robert Mueller” successfully raised awareness of the impending loss of facilities but could not save Mueller and Austin Executive airports, both of which closed in the summer of 1999.

The city of Austin chose not to provide any hangars for general aviation at the new airport and most of the hundreds of displaced general aviation planes and pilots were forced to find new homes in adjacent towns such as San Marcos and Georgetown. This created additional pressures on the operations at these non-towered airports.

The founders of “Friends of Robert Mueller” soon realized that general aviation was being threatened in areas throughout Texas. The need for a statewide advocacy group was obvious and the Texas Aviation Association was born with the mission statement, “To Promote and Preserve General Aviation in the State of Texas”.

Under the leadership of a few dedicated Austin pilots TXAA started recruiting members from across the state to support the needs of general aviation throughout the state of Texas. This provided pilots with an organization and the support to work with others to address local issues and promote better public understanding of the benefits of general aviation to the local community with the support of a state wide organization. Organization, education and action have shown positive results across the state.

POSITIVE RESULTS THROUGH ACTION
The city of Austin did not provide any support for general aviation when the new Bergstrom Airport was opened. There were no plans or facilities for the smaller aircraft except for a few tie down areas on the south side of the field. The city failed to provide any T-hangars to replace those lost at Robert Mueller and only accommodated two FBOs. As well, there was only a single maintenance facility at Bergstrom.

Invoking federal and state law, TXAA was able to require the city of Austin to build 53 new T-hangars. It was a small and yet vital step toward obtaining facilities to support general aviation in Austin. This was the first time that an organized approach for the support of general aviation in Texas was successful and provided a model for future efforts.

This success was short lived when the city of Austin implemented a requirement that each T-hangar renter provide a one million dollar liability insurance policy in order to hangar an airplane in one of the new T-hangars and have an additional one million dollar car insurance policy to drive to the new T-hangars! Most insurance underwriters refused to provide an economical policy but TXAA was able to reach a compromise with the city by facilitating the formation of the Bergstrom Pilots Association and development of an umbrella insurance policy that was accepted by the city and affordable for the pilots.

CONTINUED EARLY SUCCESS
The city of Georgetown meanwhile was disturbed by the large increase in aircraft that had migrated to their airport from Austin. The Georgetown city council decided that T-hangar and tie down renters were to be subjected to a very large increase in rent to “help pay for the construction of a proposed control tower”. Other business operations at Georgetown such as flight schools and maintenance facilities “would not have their rents increased”. This was a violation of the Federal Grant Assurance Laws and TXAA made sure that the city council was made aware of this oversight! The city attorney, after reviewing the grant assurance law, recommended that the city not approve the proposal to increase the rent on the T-hangars and tie downs.

The city of Georgetown then rejected the proposed construction of a control tower, even though the increased population of aircraft and the close midair encounters that occurred all too frequently demonstrated the need for the tower. TXAA continued their efforts to educate and inform pilots and the non-flying public of the need for a control tower at Georgetown. With the passage of Federal Air-21 legislation, it was brought to Georgetown’s attention that only 10% of the funding for a control tower would come from local funds.

A subsequent mid-air collision on the approach to runway 18 was the wakeup call to the city that aviation safety demanded the construction of a control tower. TXAA addressed the next city council meeting, expressing its concerns and support for the construction of a control tower at Georgetown. The council voted 7 to 0 in favor of providing the funds for the tower’s construction!

AND THEN KITTIE HILL (771)
The urban growth around the Kittie Hill (771) grass strip northwest of Austin threatened the closure of the airport. Developers needed to build a road through the middle of the airport to connect their housing development to a nearby highway. TXAA supported the local pilots by educating the Leander city government on the economic benefit and importance of the airport and helped to prevent the closure of the airport.

THE GOOD NEWS TRAVELED ACROSS THE STATE
TXAA is here to help! The organization helped form many new pilot support groups in cities across Texas. The organization’s success caught the attention of the Texas Department of Transportation. The director of the Aviation Division, David Fulton, signed a letter of support for the efforts of TXAA. Bill Gunn, Aviation Safety Director for TxDOT, became an advisor to the TXAA Board of Directors. He has been a vital source of information on General Aviation in Texas and has helped facilitate the distribution of this information through the members of TXAA.

The FAA Houston TRACON staff also became aware of the TXAA and in the spring of 2003 TXAA and the Houston TRACON staff joined together to conduct an event called Gulf Coast Wings. The TXAA took responsibility for this event in June 2004. Over 600 pilots and aviation enthusiasts attended two days of safety seminars, general sessions, tours of the Lone Star Flight Museum and a FFQ banquet featuring guest speaker, Captain Al Haynes, the hero of United Flight 232.

The TXAA sponsored the Texas Aviation EXPO 2007 held at the Texas State Technical College in Waco. Guest speakers were Steven Brown, Senior Vice President of Operations for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), George “Pinky” Nelson, former astronaut who served on three space shuttle missions and J.W. “Corkey” Fornof. Corkey has flown many of the flying scenes in the 007 film series.

The TXAA continued gaining momentum going into 2008 with an increasing membership and successes resulting from the efforts of many hard working volunteers across the state. The close ties with the FAA, the Texas Department of Transportation Aviation Division, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the National Business Aviation were strengthened early in 2008. The TXAA organization changed in 2008 to include a management committee to work on ongoing TXAA projects and issues along with the TXAA Board of Directors. The management committee also included Steve Hadley from NBAA and Shelly deZevallos from AOPA as advisors to the TXAA leadership team. This management committee began publishing The Texas Flyer, a bimonthly e-news letter, the subscriber base for which has grown from 600 to over 700 in 2008 alone!

The committee also revitalized the TXAA web site, www.txaa.org, with frequent postings of aviation events, photos and news from Texas.  In addition, the committee also created a new and expanded source of quality TXAA merchandise with a convenient PayPal payment capability.

During 2008 the TXAA stepped out in support of issues associated with developments at Bird’s Nest (6R4), Liberty Municipal (T78), and Aero Country (T31). TXAA also provided information to the city staff at Arlington to help resolve the use of Lake Arlington by float plane pilots.

Jim Rank joined TXAA in 2008 and in short order became the new Treasurer for the organization and through dedication and hard work has brought online a new accounting system with income and expense reporting and P&L statements that track and balance to the PayPal and bank statements.

In October 2008 the management committee hosted the first Texas General Aviation Summit Conference to bring together over 60 individuals representing over 40 different aviation entities throughout the state of Texas. A host of panel participants and speakers addressed current aviation issues and a breakout workshop made up of the attendees provided suggestions on prioritization of these issues and approaches on how best to work towards solving these to improve the future of General Aviation.

The four initiatives (called GAP-TX) that emerged from the work of the Summit Conference are the following:

     - GOVERNMENT/REGULATORY INITIATIVE
     - AIRPORT FACILITY INITIATIVE
     - GENERAL AVIATION PUBLIC RELATIONS INITIATIVE
     - TRAINING/PROFICIENCY-EDUCATION INITIATIVE

These initiatives in addition to the continued promotion of General Aviation in Texas will become the principal focus for TXAA during 2009 and 2010. During 2009 the TXAA will continue to expand its membership and seek aviation leaders to help develop the programs necessary to address these new initiatives and meet their objectives by 2010.

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