By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
On December 16, 2013, the City of Mesquite held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the $2.8 million air traffic control tower at Mesquite Metro Airport (KHQZ). The 80-foot tall tower is staffed by Federal Aviation Administration contract air traffic controllers and will enhance the safety of the airport’s daily operations.
While the gleaming tower may be the “star on top” of recent additions to the airport—which includes a state-of-the-art terminal building—longtime Airport Director Cynthia Godfrey keeps an eye on the future while fondly remembering her humble beginnings at the facility.
“I came to Mesquite in the middle of 1997,” says Godfrey. “This airport was a diamond in the rough, but I had a vision and could see that the city could do a lot with this facility.”
When Godfrey first began working at the airport, her first challenge was forming a committee and working with the city to show them what an asset the airport could be to the community.
“We formed an airport advisory committee and formulated a game plan and presented it to the council, which they signed off on,” says Godfrey. “One of our first initiatives was going to TxDOT for money to do a master plan, which was completed in 1998.”
Once the master plan was complete, Godfrey started the projects which were completed in 8 – 9 years. Then she and the advisory committee began a second master plan.
Since 1997, Godfrey has completed $21 million in major projects at the airport including:
- ramp extensions,
- replacing asphalt taxiways with concrete,
- renovating old hangars,
- purchasing hangars from private developers,
- building corporate hangars alongside the new terminal building,
- improving airfield drainage,
- building new localizer and ILS sheds and
- constructing a terminal building.
The terminal building opened in 2004, and features passenger and pilot lounges, an executive conference room, wi-fi and weather information for pilots.
“The terminal building was built with the state funding program that [Texas Department of Transporation Aviation Division Director] Dave Fulton started for terminal building growth in Texas,” says Godfrey. “It’s another one of those things we couldn’t have done without TxDOT’s help. We originally worked out of an old hangar that had been renovated into offices that had been in place probably since the airport opened. So it’s very nice to move into our new facility.”
The official commissioning for the air-traffic control tower was February 6. According to Godfrey, construction presented many challenges along the way.
“We certainly had some unique situations along the way, since there’s a learning curve with finding contacts, learning equipment and being under the threat of not having staff for the tower,” says Godfrey. “But we’re operational now and very excited about the tower.”
Next on the project list are corporate aircraft hangars, which will be located on the south end of the airport. The concrete apron for the hangars has already been poured in preparation for the construction.
“We have a waiting list for hangar space; we don’t have a spot empty on the field,” says Godfrey. “The facilities we have in the terminal building have helped our traffic immensely.”
Godfrey also plans on opening a restaurant inside the terminal building.
While she does take the time for an occasional drive around the facility to reflect on all the completed projects and how far the airport has come in her 17-year tenure, don’t expect Godfrey to rest on her laurels. She would rather spend her time focusing on future projects and continuing to sell the value of the airport to the community.
“People have an idea that an airport is just for rich people to be able to fly their planes; that is not the case, nor has it ever been since I’ve been in the business,” says Godfrey. “The city council knows the importance of our airport and how it’s an economic engine for Mesquite. We are always selling our airport to our local community.”
Mesquite Metro Airport at a Glance
- 6000-foot runway and taxiway
- ILS and RNAV approaches
- Itinerant and long- and short-term hangar space
- Airport security staff
- Perimeter access control
- Surveillance video
- Daily airfield and safety checks
- No landing fees
- Line service by City of Mesquite
- AvFuel branded 100LL & Jet A fuel
- Self-serve Jet A and 100LL
- After hours fueling
- Maintenance facilities by Michels Aviation, Mesquite Aviation and Mesquite Aircraft Services
- Helicopters accommodated