By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Few airports can boast of a history as rich as Hale County airport (KPVW) in Plainview, Texas. Starting out life during World War II, the facility flourished as a military training base. When this airport’s military mission came to a close, its civilian role began, and it has been serving the surrounding communities as a commercial and/or general aviation airport since 1946.
The airport no longer has commercial service, and the tower was decommissioned in the 1980s, but the role of the airport in the community is still as robust and vibrant as ever, and it has evolved to serve large business jets, turboprop aircraft, agricultural operations and other general aviation traffic that continues to
use the facility.
“When Tim and Stacie (Hardage) acquired the existing FBOs and created Rocket Aviation, they became responsible for making this airport go,” said airport board chairman and former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney. “We’ve always had great support from the city and county as well.”
In 2011, the primary airport stakeholders recognized, as many airports in the state have, that a transition needed to be made from one generation’s leaders to the next. To develop a roadmap for the future, work began on an airport master plan.
“Developing our master plan was one of the best things we’ve ever done,” said airport manager Stacie Hardage. “It really gave us the focus to identify what needs to be done and then be able to check projects off the list.”
One of the first initiatives the airport engaged in was to complete two paving projects. Other projects, which were completed in 2017, include:
- replacing the entire electrical system, including all airfield signage, with LED fixtures
- installation of a new primary and supplementary wind cones
- removal of the electrical vault from the old terminal building to a new concrete precast vault
- removal of existing drainage structures that fell within the safety area limits
- installation of a new storm sewer system
Using recycled materials, the airport constructed a small perimeter road connecting the east and west ramps on either side of the primary runway, which allows fuel trucks to shuttle fuel to both sides of the airport without leaving airport property or crossing the airfield’s protected surfaces. Finally, the airport worked with TxDOT to patch and restore the weathered runway to its original 6,000-foot length.
“I’m not sure the average person realizes how critical it is to the future of the community to have a quality airport,” said Hale County Judge Bill Coleman. “Certainly in our city and county we understand. This airport is as much of a piece of the puzzle of economic development as anything else.”
With the completion of the current projects, all the airport’s paved surfaces are rehabilitated, re-marked, and ready to serve the flying public for years to come. The airport updates resulted in the airport being named the 2017 Most Improved General Aviation Airport at the Texas Aviation Conference in San Marcos last April.
“It’s important to remember the role that TxDOT Aviation plays,” said Plainview Mayor Wendell Dunlap. “I don’t know what small communities in Texas would do without their assistance. They provide more than money; they provide leadership, and we have truly seen the benefits here.”