For Austin, A First-Class Reliever

Ron Henriksen built the Houston Executive Airport from scratch; now he’s applying what he learned in the Texas capital


“The politics has been very pleasant. It’s completely different than Houston because there they did not want the airport there because it hadn’t been there. This one has been here, and it really doesn’t have any neighbors.

“It’s interesting; it’s exactly the opposite of what you would think. The only thing I can think is that this airport has been here, so all that animosity isn’t there because the airport is 40 years old. The airport’s here.

“Nobody complains about Bergstrom because it was already there [as an Air Force Base]. I guarantee if Bergstrom hadn’t been there and you tried to build it today, they’d probably lynch you.”

The new airport

What Henriksen is doing here is creating a business aviation airport with a 6,045-foot concrete runway just northeast of the city center. The airport rests on some 575 acres, with farmland/ranches the adjacent property. A new tollway that circumvents the city — state highway 130 — abuts the airport, and the city is creating a tollway exit directly to the airport, to accommodate anticipated economic development.

Comments Henriksen, “We hope to have 100 airplanes based here.”

His investment here stands at some $33 million. “It’s a lot to get back in fuel, isn’t it?” he says. In Houston, Henriksen invested some $31 million. Over time, he projects that the Austin airport could proved to be the better economic generator.

When opened, Austin Executive will have a corporate hangar/terminal complex, three rows of T-hangars, 13 shadeports, and some 15 acres available for development. The fuel farm will offer 20,000 gallons of jet-A; 20,000 gallons of 100LL; and a split tank for autogas and kerosene for tractors. Says Henriksen, “We built a concrete pad and bought the tanks; they’re Garsite tanks with a stainless steel liner in them. It’s a real advantage because with the other tanks you have to go in there every 15 years or so and refurbish.”

Creating his Austin airport has actually been a bigger financial challenge, says Henriksen, though the economic times have had an influence.

Relates Henriksen, “This land probably cost twice what it did in Houston. We’ve got 1,900 acres in Houston; we have 575 here. We started in Houston with an up economy, and halfway through the project we weren’t even sure if the contractors wanted the job because they were so busy. In the last half of construction, you could get anybody you want.

“Here we had a lot of people who wanted to build; we only took bids from three top-shelf firms. It was good for us because we’re getting it built fairly inexpensively; it’s great for the contractor because they’ve got something to do.”

Regarding his future in the building of airports, Henriksen says, “This is the last airport I’m building. I’m pretty sure.” But he admits he still has some money in the kitty for perhaps one more.

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