By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Implementing new technologies and strategies for airport maintenance in today’s lean economic environment was among the key topics discussed at this year’s 29th Texas Aviation Conference in Austin, TX.
This year’s conference had nearly 500 attendees including airport sponsors, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) employees, consultants, contractors and exhibitors. The event was hosted by the TxDOT Aviation Division and co-sponsored by the Texas Airports Council (TAC) and the Texas Aviation Association.
To kick off the conference, TxDOT Aviation Division Director Dave Fulton delivered his state of the division address. During his remarks, Fulton reflected on the 20-year anniversary of the formation of the TxDOT Aviation Division (see the “20 Years of Serving Texas General Aviation” sidebar).
Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, followed with an update on general aviation.
“It’s amazing what the Aviation Division has accomplished in 20 years,” said Fuller. “Over 30,000 of our 400,000 members are right here in Texas, and so we have a great working relationship with Dave Fulton and his staff.”
To conclude the morning session, Aviation Division Director of Planning and Programming Scott Gallagher presented an overview of the role his group plays in a project’s life cycle.
The afternoon breakout session featured presentations on airport planning, design, maintenance, consultants and runway surveillance technologies.
The first day ended with the traditional awards banquet (see the “2011 Aviation Awards Winners” sidebar).
Stacy Swigart with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began the final day of the conference with a presentation titled “Airport Compliance 101: Get to Know Your Grants.” During her remarks, Swigart discussed the details of airport sponsor assurances.
The next presentation of the conference was given by Henry Ogrodzinski, president of the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO).
Henry “O,” as he is affectionately known, explained that part of NASAO’s legislative agenda includes:
- Reauthorize Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for $4 billion.
- Recommend a 25 percent investment in AIP/FAA funding from the General Fund.
- Continue the current non-primary airport grant program of $150,000 for small, general aviation airports.
- Keep the Essential Air Service program funding at $200 million.
- Facilitate Robust NextGen Investments.
- Raise the cap on passenger facility charges (PFCs) for large commercial airports to $7.50 and providing greater flexibility in the use of these funds.
- Create no new user fees for general aviation.
Troy Kimmel, chief meteorologist for KEYE-TV (Austin) and senior lecturer with The University of Texas at Austin, concluded the morning session with a presentation on what AWOS installations mean to airports and their communities.
“It’s always a pleasure to visit with our friends from across the state that we work with throughout the year,” said Fulton. “This conference feels like a reunion of family and friends.”
The 2012 Texas Aviation Conference will be held in Galveston, TX. For more information or to download presentations from this year’s conference, please visit http://tti.tamu.edu/conferences/tac11/program/.
2011 Aviation Awards Winners
- RAMP coordinator of the year: Douglas Reiter, Atlanta District
- Most improved general aviation airport of the year: Scholes International Airport at Galveston
- Airport management of the year: Kleberg County Airport’s Mike and Judy Muzyczyn
- Reliever airport of the year: Arlington Municipal Airport
- General aviation airport of the year: Kerrville Municipal – Louis Schreiner Field Airport
A special volunteer award was presented to TXAA board of director Jay Carpenter. He was recognized for his service to general aviation in Texas.
Aviation Art Contest Winners
1st place: Sarah Rodriguez, 6, Weslaco
2nd place: Erika Howlett, 9, San Antonio
3rd place: Leslie Moreno, 9, Mercedes
1st place: Katya Castaneda, 12, Laredo
2nd place: Gabriela Gonzalez, 12, Laredo
3rd place: Itzel Vilches, 12, Laredo
1st place: Andrew Li, 17, Plano
2nd place: Ismael Roman, 16, Amarillo
3rd place: Melissa Albrecht, 17, Port Lavaca
Yulissa Ibarra, 13, Laredo
Dmitry Fedorov, 17, Wills Point
20 Years of Serving Texas General Aviation
1991—Funding levels: $ 17.3 million
1993—State block grant program begins
1994—Formation of terminal building program, which results in the construction of 42 buildings in 17 years
1996—Routine Airport Maintenance Program (RAMP) program begins. $37.6 million dollars have been distributed to Texas airports via RAMP through fiscal year 2010.
1997—Relievers join state block program
1998—Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) program begins. Since 1998, 83 sites have added AWOS.
2001—Non primary entitlement program begins
2001—Formation of the air traffic control tower program. Since this program began, 15 air traffic control towers have either been built or renovated.
2003—Aircraft Pooling Board joins TxDOT
2006—Fuel farm construction and hangar program begin
2011—Funding levels: $77.8 million