City eyes public-private airport venture
Then on weekends, he climbs into his airplane and navigates it to Mustang Island, where he maintains and lives on a sailboat.
"When I first came here two years ago I pitched a tent under the wing of my aircraft. Then I slept on a couch (in the airport's office) until I got to know the area and bought my boat," Brown said.
Brown is one of many light aircraft pilots who land and take off from the Mustang Beach Airport the city maintains on land owned by the Texas General Land Office.
He also is one of the many pilots that the city and a private aviation venture out of Austin would urge to complete a survey about future services at the airport.
Although Brown said he likes the way things are at Mustang Beach Airport, he would be interested in leasing land and building his own hangar.
That is one of the questions on the survey.
Port Aransas City Manager Michael Kovacs was in Austin on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 23-24, to meet with representatives of the General Land Office to negotiate an update of the city's lease of the property for the airport, located on Piper Boulevard off State Highway 361.
"We want to transition from the old municipal airport lease to one that is more commercial to allow more of a business type activity, and those lease discussions are still ongoing," Kovacs said.
"The whole focus is having more facilities and growing the airport to be everything it can be; that philosophy started with the airport board in 2004," he said.
Some of the goals for Mustang Beach Airport included more aircraft fueling capacity, more hangar space, staff to oversee the airport's daily operations, more tarmac, drainage improvements and additional outside parking for airplanes, "at minimal cost to the taxpayer.
"We've talked about an airport restaurant and having mechanics available for maintenance in people's hangars. We haven't structured the end-deal yet; it's something we are discussing with the General Land Office and a private partnership," Kovacs said.
"We want it to be a better deal for the pilots who consistently fly into Mustang Island. We want the end product to be better for them as an end user than it is today, and that may come at a cost; we have to balance all those issues," he said.
The Port Aransas City Council in April authorized Kovacs to negotiate a partnership with Texas Aviation Partners of Austin to present ideas for operating and improving the airport and its amenities.
The firm presented a three-phase plan for the airport.
Phase one includes building a paved tie-down area for aircraft, building additional single-aircraft hangars in addition to nested Thangars that have wide space for aircraft wings and narrower space for the fuselage, an expanded fueling capacity, a terminal building with more vehicle parking space, a security fence and gate and a sign that depicts the Mustang Island Airport's existence.
Provided negotiations with the GLO for additional land are successful, a phase two would include building a taxiway to the phase two area, an additional paved tie-down area, more nested T-hangars, additional parking, security fencing, large box hangars and additional single-aircraft hangars.
Phase two also envisions airportrelated commercial development, but nothing specific is on the drawing board.
According to a proposal to the city from Texas Aviation Partners, the firm would begin negotiations with the GLO to acquire land for phase three, which is similar in scope to phase two of the airport's master plan.
"We have about 300 pilots who live on the island full time or who fly down for vacation. We are conducting the survey with the city to solicit input from the users of the airport," Stephen Alexander of Texas Aviation Partners told the Port Aransas South Jetty.
"We want as many folks who have an interest in the airport to give us their two cents worth. We want to construct improvements that are needed and wanted and what they are looking for; we don't want to be flying blind," Alexander said.
Brown said he believes that bringing in a private venture, or a fixed base operation, would not be an improvement at the airport.
"That is not conducive to my flying," Brown said. "The city should control it."
Local real estate broker Mark Grosse owns a 1957 Cessna 180, an airplane he calls "an old, bushtype airplane that can land anywhere."
He said he has yet to fill out the pilot survey.
"I've used that airport forever, and I have had an airplane there for at least 10 years, it works perfectly for me," Grosse said.
He said that improvements such as adding lights, repaving the runway, providing weather information and having an adequate fuel supply available are all pluses for Mustang Beach Airport, but the greatest improvement would be additional hangars.
"I love having one for the convenience. If you have an airplane and keep it on the island all the time, it would be tragic to let it sit out in the environment," Grosse said.
"There is a critical need for more hangar space at the airport," Keith Donley, city councilman and former member of the airport board, said. He also owns and maintains an aircraft in one of the airport hangars.
"People come here with nice planes and they don't want them to be left out in the elements. The point is that most of the things the city could do have been done. To expand, the only economic sense is a private/public partnership. The city could share in the revenue," Donley said.
Pilots can find the survey at the city's Web site, which has a link to www.mustangbeachairport.com. The Web site provides an online version of the survey.
Hard paper copies of the survey, including postage paid envelopes, can be found at the airport office.
"We're conducting a significant amount of market analysis. What we're after right now is to obtain as much data as possible as we craft a master plan for the airport. We want to be driven by the demand and need of the airport users," Alexander said.