TxDOT report offers no “silver bullet” to fix Devine’s airport woes

By Anton Riecher
A recent report from the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviaition Division on the Devine Airport contained no “silver bullet” to quickly resolve the many problems plaguing the facility, airport board president Hap Squires told the city council Aug. 15.

“Our hope was that TxDOT could provide some assistance in determining the best use of our hangars, those recently acquired, and suggestions on how to maximize use of the entire airport,” Squires said.
However, most of the TxDOT suggestions were long-term solutions rather than anything immediate, he said.
Mayor Butch Cook said that the city expects to lose an estimated $60,000 annually on the airport as it now stands.
“We definitely have quite a dilemma on our hands,” he said. “Chances are this airport will never be quite profitable. As it is right now it’s a serious dent in our budget.”
Among the suggestions made by TxDOT is to view the airport as in direct competition with other airports as close as 20 to 30 miles away, specifically Castroville and Pleasanton, Squires said.
“It’s the pilot’s choice as to where he is going to land,” Squires said. “Even if they were doing business in Devine, they could land in Castroville and still get here.”
Disadvantages at the Devine airport include limited parking, lack of restroom facilities, no lounge where pilots can take a break and no courtesy or rental vehicles, the TxDOT report states. Another problem is poor access between the north and south portions of the airport that makes it difficult to maneuver to the refueling station.
“TxDOT indicated that a parallel taxiway or runway connecting the two areas would help in future development,” Squires said.
An immediate first step in an airport improvement program would be drafting an update to the airport’s layout plant by TxDOT. Cost of that update would be $150,000 of which the city would only pay 10 percent, Squires said.
The update would also show the city how to be reimbursed for money already spent on the airport, Squires said. The amount that could be reimbursed would be limited to an estimated $15,000.
“The point is these improvements would require megabucks and a lot of time with no guarantee of long-term profitability,” Squires said.
One TxDOT suggestion is to use the largest of the airport hangars, No. 10, as a community hangar where several individuals could store airplanes rather than rent separate hangars. But to do this the airport would need equipment and personnel to move the airplanes in and out of the hangar as needed, Squires said.
“Seems a little impractical,” he said.
Another problem for the community hangar idea is that the cheaper rates would probably rob business from trying to rent the more expensive individual hangars, Squires said.
The airport board has no recommendations to offer based on the TxDOT report, he said.
“My personnel suggestion is that we get the vacant hangars in good enough condition so that the city can begin marketing them,” Squires said. The work involved is mainly cleanup and repair.
“I wish I had more positive news,” Squires said.