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Friday, January 21, 2011

Goodbye Bird's Nest, Hello KEDC

In what surely qualifies as aviation's version of the Man Bites Dog story, folks outside Austin, Texas, are almost ready to cut the red ribbon on a brand new executive airport.
Yup, a 6,000-foot-long runway, sparkling new FBO, complete with a 140 x 85 foot arrival canopy, lots of ramp space, a couple of good sized corporate hangars, plus a stretch of T-hangars. And, just for fun, there's a new 2,200-foot-long grass strip as well.
The place is called Austin Executive Airport (KEDC), and it's located off State Road 130, 15 miles east of the Texas State Capitol, and it should be fully operational by April.
The location may seem vaguely familiar to some because it used to be the site of Bird's Nest Airport, a tiny GA field whose best days passed a long time ago. With the city's continuing expansion, such a low-traffic, low-revenue facility like Bird's Nest often makes way for strip malls and housing developments. But Ron Henriksen had other ideas.
A former corporate pilot who abandoned an aviation career for one in telecommunications where he made a bundle, he's returning to the environment he loved, and in a big way. First he bought a Texas-sized plot of land – that is to say, three square miles of it – west of Houston where he created Houston Executive Airport a few years ago.
That done, he bought Bird's Nest, along with about 400 acres around it, to create Austin Exec.
A self-effacing guy, he laughs with familiarity when it's suggested he's following a classic aviation business plan that will deliver a small fortune, after having invested a large one. But he thinks the new airport's location so close in to the capital city's downtown center – it's only about a 15-minute drive from Henriksen Jet Center – should help the place achieve success reasonably quickly.
I hope it does just that. It's refreshing to see someone investing real money – the figure $33 million is being cited – in business aviation's growth, and this from someone who really knows what it's all about.  

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