Bruce McKenzie, general manager of the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport, provided an update on the local “regional airport;” and Robert Dutton, chief manufacturing officer at Mooney International, Inc., added the newest advances at the airplane manufacturing plant.
McKenzie said the local airport now handles about 50,000 operations per year, take-offs and landings, which averages more than 100 per day.
“We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days per year,” he said.
In the terminal building and Kerrville Aviation, the “fixed base operation” is open to serve pilots and passengers from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. all seven days per week including Thanksgiving and Christmas, he said.
McKenzie said about 163 airplanes are based at the local airport.
Some are housed in larger hangars that also are tied to repair services, or choose to tie down outside on the taxiway.
“There are now 28 T-hangar spaces on the airport, and the newest set of 12 is two years old,” McKenzie said. “We are full and still have a waiting list. That’s good.”
He said they plan to build another 10-12 spaces in FY18, and whoever is on the waiting list then will get the first calls.
“The FBO at Kerrville Aviation is operating ‘space-available only’ now,” he said.
“We have several San Antonio operations who keep their jets here, for various reasons. If their offices or operations are on the Interstate-10 corridor, they say they can get here to Kerrville quicker than they can drive into San Antonio,” McKenzie said
“And when they get here, they can depart in their airplanes faster than they can at San Antonio,” he said.
“They seem to like the ambience here. We can handle their fuel and catering and some maintenance at Kerrville Aviation.”
He said the airport property includes about 528 acres, and is enclosed with about 6.5 miles of chainlink fences, “to keep out the deer and the antelope,” in this area an actual problem between the native Whitetail and other exotic wildlife.
“And we know feral hogs are close and are watching that situation. We check those fences frequently.”
McKenzie said they recently completed a resurfacing project of the 6,000-foot runway, which was resealed, restriped, and renumbered. That longer runway is “12-30” for its magnetic bearing; and the 3,600-foot runway is numbered “3-21.” The shorter one was resurfaced in October last year.
Another recent project performed at the Airport Board’s direction was the demolition of a 10,000-square-foot building on the Mooney Aircraft campus that was badly deteriorated. That demolition was completed by Oct. 8.
McKenzie said he and two other people work for the Airport Advisory Board.
“Six years ago we were taking almost a quarter-million dollars from the city and county owners of the airport to operate this. Because of this board, who made the decision to run this as a business, we’ve made a dynamic turn-around. Our one agenda is to make this airport better,” he said.
The current Airport Board members are Steve King, president; Corey Walters, vice president; Ed Livermore; Bill Wood; and Kirk Griffin.
“Now in FY17, we asked for just $21,000 from each owner. Our hope and desire is to go through the budget process and not ask for anything from them again,” McKenzie said.
They also have two flight instructors working with clients at the airport property.
He said the board sets the standard and gives tasks to him, following their purpose of trying to make the airport self-sufficient.
To that end, they have leased out some buildings and spaces (including the former Alamo Colleges welding school, now Flyin’ Diesel Performance), and have 16 vehicles parked in the long-term lot near the terminal with owners paying a rental fee to have their vehicles waiting when they fly in.
Other income includes the “fuel flowage fee.”
“For every gallon of fuel sold, we get 9 cents, and that’s from about 400,000 gallons of fuel per year.”
That fuel is of two types, “100 low lead” and “Jet A.”
McKenzie said jets are fueled with the Jet A, while piston-powered planes fly on low-lead.
McKenzie said the next plan on his books is for Kerr County to construct a connecting road from Peterson Farm Road to the old “paint hanger” at Mooney (airport property) for public access, as the Airport Board plans to renovate the old hanger into four more plane storage spaces.
Then the City of Kerrville has told him they will repave around the old hanger and rebuild the taxiway to the building.
More immediately, on Oct. 19-13, the Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association will hold their 41st annual conference this year in Kerrville, the MAPA Homecoming.
McKenzie said to help them, the shorter runway will be closed and the attending owner-pilots will tie down their planes off the sides of that runway.
Association President Trey Hughes said planes will begin arriving today, Wednesday, easily 50-75 planes. The Inn of the Hills is the host hotel where there will be vendors Thursday, and seminars Friday on owning, operating and maintaining their Mooney aircraft.
On Saturday, members are invited to Mooney and the airport for an “airplane beauty contest” on the runway, and lunch and tours at the Mooney factory. Awards will be presented at an evening banquet, one each on 10 different models.
Hughes said he has pre-registered 75-80 couples, and sometimes they have pilot-owners attending from Canada, New Zealand and Europe.
Distances being what they are, he said pilots can fly in do-able hops from Europe and back, while those across the Pacific Ocean usually fly commercially to attend.
Dutton said Friday that they’ve built the last of the single-door Mooney jets, and have the last two waiting for delivery to new owners.
And they are introducing the new Mooney Ultra in two models, the Acclaim twin turbo and the Ovation.
“All the planes from now on will be the new two-door cabins, the Mooney M-20 Ultra.” And the new “composite material” cabin formed in a three-dimensional shape takes the place of about 300 parts they used to manufacture individually.
The cabin interior has been redesigned to include owner-ordered leather seats, also hand-made in the factory. And Dutton said they are still waiting for Federal Aviation Administration certification, apparently a long federal process.
Local employees are manufacturing an average of two finished planes per month.
Mooney now employs about 158 people in Kerrville, and about another 60 in Chino, Calif.
They also have a new president and CEO with Dr. Vivek Saxena replacing Dr. Jerry Chen who is moving to a senior advisory role.
Dutton said Chen laid a tremendous foundation, along with the entire Mooney team, both in Kerrville and at the research and development facility in California. Dutton expects Saxena to take the company up yet another level.
Sutton said they’ve invested heavily in new equipment and plant facilities, including a drying room for use themselves and now for creating parts ordered by other people and companies.
“Mooney is now considered a one-stop shop for parts and fabrication,” Dutton said, “and Mooney is fairly rapidly becoming known for overhead rates being relatively low and for providing quick turn-around.”
With new and repaired roofs complete, they also are changing and adding equipment, modular offices and other improvements.
But they are still outsourcing new planes to be painted.
Dutton said now that the old administration building is gone, they eventually hope to establish a “Mooney Heritage Center” in a remaining building where the public can visit exhibits about Mooney airplanes. But that’s probably at least two to three years down the road.