After more than 70 years without a major change to its hangar, the noncommercial area at Easterwood Airport is poised for an upgrade as it prepares for the construction of a new fixed-base operations terminal and hangar.
The Texas A&M University System had a ceremonial ground breaking at the construction site Wednesday morning, taking the opportunity to share their hopes for the effects the $6.5 million public-private project will have once it is complete.
The yet-to-be-named facility is planned to provide an 8,500-square-foot terminal and an adjacent 40,000 square-foot hanger.
Chancellor John Sharp said at the event he was surprised when he began his leadership of the A&M System nearly six years ago by how little the airport had changed in the decades since he was a freshman at Texas A&M University in the late 1960s.
“It struck me that when I got here as a freshman, this side of the airport looked exactly like it did when I got here as chancellor,” Sharp said. “This is a huge asset for Texas A&M University that just simply wasn’t utilized and never came close to matching the greatness of [the institution] itself. That is all going to change…This is going to be a great front door for the university as well as the RELLIS Campus.”
Sharp said particularly in the case of the forthcoming RELLIS Campus — which is planned to have a number of corporate and industry partners involved in research and operations — the renovated terminal and airport as a whole is expected to be “something we can be proud of” as visitors use it to arrive and depart from the area.
In addition to general aviation and plane storage, the terminal will also be used for flight lessons, athletic charters, business aviation and military training and refueling. System officials said during 2016, Easterwood as a whole hosted upward of 32,000 operations, including 12,000 general aviation flights and military training operations each, respectively.
Vice Chancellor for Business Services Phillip Ray said the improvements to the airport are expected to not only be a benefit to A&M, but to Bryan-College Station and Brazos County as well.
“As Bryan-College Station is continuing to develop, expand and promote the Brazos Valley region, at the heart of that is a vibrant airport,” Ray said “For some folks, their first impression of the Brazos Valley region in this airport…I think it will help support [business development] and help to put us in the best light as an up-and-coming region in the Bryan-College Station area as a whole.”
The A&M System is partnering on the project with College Station-based Astin Aviation — operator of the airport since 2014 — which has committed to investing more than $6.5 million out of the current $10.5 million into the overall Easterwood improvements, the majority of which are expected to go toward the FBO terminal.
Construction and design work on the facility is being handled by Bryan-based companies Madison Construction and Architect Studios.
Sharp said like the system’s other public-private deals, the institution is not contributing any funds to the project.
John W. Clanton, CEO of Astin Aviation, said at the event that construction on the terminal is planned to be completed by January 2018.
Clanton said the final product is expected to be “truly unique and striking and does represent the quality and the leadership that comes from the university.”
Like the similarly public-private hotel and convention center, Sharp said a naming opportunity for the FBO terminal is available through financial sponsorship.
In addition to the fixed-base operations terminal, the commercial McKenzie Terminal is undergoing nearly $4 million in renovations as well, including a TSA pre-check option, cafe services after the security checkpoint, more comfortable seating and new men’s and women’s restrooms.