The dream took flight in the 1970s, when the Federal Aviation Administration suggested that McKinney build a facility that could become the third commercial airport in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
So the city built it. For 36 years it has failed to woo an airline, but under a private developer it bloomed into a busy general aviation airport.
McKinney bought back control over the airport two years ago so it could get the revenue. Now that voters have rejected a bond proposal for $50 million to expand the facility, city leaders are considering other ways to fund improvements.
Most of that money would have bought land to protect the airport from encroachment, especially to the east, next to the runway. The rest would have paid for more hangars and taxiways.
Interim City Manager Tom Muehlenbeck said McKinney will look at the city budget for possible funding sources.
The City Council hasn’t discussed how it will move forward with the airport, but its development didn’t hinge on the bond proposal passing, said Mayor Brian Loughmiller.
“We’re going to continue with our business plan because the airport is self-sustaining at this point,” he said.
While luring an airline remains a remote possibility, for now McKinney is banking on its appeal to light aircraft owners and CEOs in jets.
McKinney National Airport sits on 745 acres in an industrial area in the eastern part of the city. All of its hangars are full, city officials said.
That includes 93 “T-hangars” for smaller planes, three medium ones and three for corporate jets. More than 100 aircraft are on a waiting list for space, according to the airport’s business plan, and a new hangar scheduled to open next year is already booked.
Among the airport’s customers are Encore Wire, Raytheon, Texas Instruments, Hewlett-Packard and Toyota Motor Co.
Though hangar rentals are a good chunk of the business at the airport, nearly half of the revenue comes from fuel sales.
This year, the airport made $1 million in profit — an increase from $417,000 last year, city officials said. However, that includes a transfer of about $600,000 from the city’s general fund, which is roughly what the airport generated in tax revenue for the city. Muehlenbeck said the city expects to phase out that transfer.
The profit margin will decrease next year once the city starts repaying the principal on the debt that it incurred to take over the airport, said Deputy City Manager Jose Madrigal. Buying those assets two years ago cost $25 million.
Even though the airport has been privately run for most of its history, McKinney taxpayers have helped sustain it since it opened in 1979.
The city has invested millions in a 7,000-foot runway and a 78-foot control tower, getting reimbursements from state and federal agencies.
As the private developer attracted some companies to the airport, the city offered financial incentives.
And at least since 2002, McKinney has subsidized between $450,000 and $750,000 annually to maintain the control tower, the taxiways and the runway, all of which it already owned.
McKinney voters were split on the airport bond proposal. Opponents cast 52 percent of the ballots.
Voters did approve $100 million for roads, public safety buildings, improvements to other municipal facilities and dam renovations.
Loughmiller noted that the airport generated $2 million in tax revenue last year, most of which went to McKinney schools. The airport is part of a special district where some of the tax revenue is put in a fund to pay for projects in that area.
“If you’re talking in terms of who is potentially most impacted, it’s not the lucky few that have money,” the mayor said. “It’s some of the poorer areas in our community that we’re trying to provide infrastructure for.”