By Rick Davenport
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
The Alice International Airport (KALI) has a rich and storied history, dating back to its role in training naval pilots for World War II. Since then, and after the city and county became owners, the airport nearly became invisible.
“I would say most people don’t even know we have an airport, or where it’s located,” says Charles Brazzell, the 77-year-old airport manager, who left his hometown decades ago but returned to Alice and is now on his third career. Eight years ago, Brazzell became Alice’s first full-time, on-site airport manager.
“The airport has not been a big priority, but that seems to be changing very quickly. I’m proud to see all the improvements here, and others are too,” he says. “I have officials with the city and county coming to see our facility for the very first time.”
The finishing touches are underway on a $5.3 million construction project that has transformed an outdated facility into a revitalized and modern general aviation airport complete with rehabilitated runways, new lighting, reconstructed taxiways with lighting, a new fuel apron, airfield signage, a precision approach path indicator… the list goes on. The airport even has a pilot’s lounge with computers, showers, a courtesy car and complimentary hot dogs.
So how did all this happen?
Brazzell says a lot of the credit has to go to Barbara Reaves, head of Grant Development with the City of Alice.
“Years ago our lighting system went out after a lightning strike,” Brazzell explains. “That’s when Reaves began talking with TxDOT about our needs, which led to these grant funds being available.”
Heading up the Alice project for TxDOT was Project Manager Eusebio Torres, who is pleased that the airport is receiving more attention.
“Alice is a case in which most people did not realize what they had until the reconstruction project got underway. I think it opened their eyes to new potential,” says Torres.
Torres urges other Texas airports to contact TxDOT Aviation for potential grant funding opportunities. He explained that in most of the work at Alice, grant funds amounted to 90 percent of the costs, with the city and county splitting the remaining 10 percent.
Recent Updates Impress New Visitors
Newly elected Jim Wells County Judge Pedro “Pete” Trevino recently visited the airport, and was impressed. “I did not realize how big it was and that it was such a jewel. It’s a real diamond in the rough and no one knows about it,” says Trevino. “I really think the new Alice International Airport will entice future development.”
Currently, the oil industry, hunters and the Navy are Alice’s biggest customers. Thanks to the renovations, officials expect to start seeing new users.
Alice International Airport averages 26,000 take-offs and landings each year. However, with money shortages the airport ran into hard times. A rehabilitation project was attempted years ago, but ended when money ran out.
With few choices in the region, and the fact that Alice has a 6,000 foot runway, pilots used the airport out of necessity.
“I really think that pilots will want to come here now, not because they have to,” says Brazzell. “And when they see all the improvements, word will spread quickly.” He’s extremely pleased with the work his new maintenance supervisor, Noe Asevedo, is doing to keep all 562 acres neat and clean, as well as keeping the machinery running smoothly.
Brazzell and others are discussing a fly-in or celebration to introduce the public to Alice’s new airport. They take pride in the improvements and will continue this stride in the future.
“Not only is Alice International safer and nicer, we have the best customer service in all of South Texas,” Brazzell says. “Everything here has changed.”
For more information about the Alice airport, visit http://www.airnav.com/airport/kali.