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By: Cheryl Hill-Burrier, Lockhart Aero at 5R
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Nine-Eleven may have knocked the wind out of the "world" of aviation, but not so in Texas and not so for Texas Aviators. In fact, we're placing a whole other meaning on the private aviation industry and appropriately so for a state known as a "whole other country". Smaller airports are expanding and upgrading with the assistance from Tx-DOT and city funding, while some Texas business men and women are beginning to beat the hassles of commercial airlines - boot-kicking the long lines at baggage check-ins, electrical "pat-downs" and delayed flights because some poor granny whipped out her knitting needles. Locating a smaller general aviation airport is about as easy as finding a bed of fire ants, and the Texans flying in and out of them (in some cases) may even reach their destinations sooner than if they'd flown with the Big Birds. So how does this affect our economy? Just Great - some may even say this could be the oil boom of aviation for General Aviation airports which are either city run or privately owned; finally swinging the pendulum back toward the almost extinct private business owner - better known in some circles as the "little man". The cities themselves usually receive a percentage of fuel sales as well as lease on hangars they've built, while Fixed Base Operators (FBO's) also receive a percentage of fuel sales - running terminal buildings, renting hangar space, aircraft and selling pilot supplies. And the wealth is spread even further, through the use of airport courtesy cars, "ground-pounding" pilots to local restaurants, motels, hunting and fishing lodges and tourist attractions. Flight instructors also remain busy, teaching students in a more relaxed atmosphere without the garbled cautions from air traffic controllers in class B & C airspace, calling to expedite taxi or hold short for a 747. Laid-off airline pilots are turning toward instructing and corporate flying, while unemployed aircraft mechanics are finding work once more. The Line-Crews usually consist of students hired through local high schools or colleges, and after a brief course in procedures and safety, they're ready to assist with the moving and fueling of aircraft. Best of all, Texans are known for their love to party, and that calls for "Fly-Ins"! Whether it's airport hopping for a hot-dog and some hangar flying (telling tales), or playing tourista at a city sponsored event - it doesn't take much for our pilots to hit the skies. And if that's not enough to put a shine on your buckle, the state's FBO's have taken their Texas pride and unspoken competitiveness a "two-step" further by trying to produce the best Fly-In events, from poker runs to tamale feasts. But here's a new one - On July 20, Lockhart Aero in Lockhart, Texas will host an Aviation Scavenger Hunt. Never heard of one before? Well, there's never been one like this one before, and they intend to have one heck of a good time by inviting pilots statewide to "saddle up" their planes and drop in for a good time. The only thing stopping this state's general aviation industry from future prosperity and a good time, is the weather - and in Texas that only means a short wait for a great change!

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