Breakout Session I
The afternoon breakout sessions featured timely and relevant topics to general aviation professionals.
“We have a few sessions that we repeat every year, but most of them are new ideas that we get from conference evaluations or talking with industry professionals,” said Texas A&M Transportation Institute Research Scientist and co-conference planner Jeff Borowiec.
Airport Manager’s Roundtable
This was the eighth consecutive year the popular airport manager’s roundtable has appeared on the agenda. During this session, attendees have an open forum to ask questions and engage a panel of experienced managers. This year’s panel included Eric Pratt, Airport General Manager, Mesquite Metro Airport; James Brown, Airport Director, Conroe North Houston Regional Airport; and Camilla Viator, City Manager and Airport Manager, Madisonville Municipal Airport.
Brown emphasized the need to engage the community and county government officials with airport activities and planning. Brown’s airport has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, and he shared his experiences with managing large scale projects.
Viator is a new comer to airport management, and she related her experiences with “learning on the fly” in addition to her duties as Madisonville City Manager.
“Take full advantage of the resources available to you,” Viator said. “Whether it be TxDOT Aviation staff or consultants, don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek advice from others with experience. I’ve found that everyone is very happy and willing to help out.”
Promoting Your Airport in Your Community and Beyond
Sharlette Wright, Airport Manager, Cleburne Regional Airport, led a session on promoting general aviation airports, both for aviators and the general public. In her session, Wright spoke about what to do when budget is an issue.
“Take advantage of free social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” said Wright. “I also speak at local community organizations such as Rotary, Lions Club and other leadership groups.”
Wright stressed hosting events at your airport that involves the community, such as hosting field trips, fly-ins and pancake breakfasts. She also suggested having a “camera at the ready” to capture unique events at the airport for posting on
Addressing Environmental Issues at Your Airport
Amy Foster, TxDOT, Aviation Division, suggested addressing environmental issues at your airport. The session’s goal was to answer pressing questions such as: What is the “environmental process,” and why do we have to do it? What are the most common environmental issues on general aviation airport projects in Texas? Which are most likely to affect a project’s budget and timeline, and what can we do about it?
“You should consider known environmental factors in early master planning efforts for proposed airport development projects,” said Foster. “It is important to identify obvious, specially-protected environmental resources, such as federally-listed endangered species, historic properties, wetlands, and parkland during the development’s conceptual phase when the greatest range of alternatives exists. Don’t be blindsided!”
Foster also gave examples of which projects and impacts tended to be the most complicated and what an airport sponsor could do to better prepare for such events.
Breakout Session II
Airport Planning Studies: Which One is Best for My Airport?
The TxDOT Aviation Division Planning and Programming Staff led this informative session to help airport sponsors understand the purposes and differences of each type of study to identify which approach is best suited for their airport.
During the presentation, it was noted the goals and outcomes that come from planning projects, which include:
- Provide a graphic representation of existing airport features, future airport development and anticipated land use;
- Establish a realistic schedule for implementation of the proposed development;
- Identify a realistic financial plan to support the development;
- Validate the plan technically and procedurally through investigation of concepts and alternatives on technical, economic and environmental grounds;
- Prepare and present a plan to the public that adequately addresses all relevant issues and satisfies local, state and federal regulations; and
- Establish a framework for a continuous planning process.
The staff also reported that airport planning studies range in size and function depending on the airport’s facilities and needs, and each plan should be tailored to fit the individual needs of the airport.
Airport Weather Forecasts
Sean Luchs, National Weather Service Houston/Galveston, and Andy McNeel, National Weather Service, Center Weather Service Unit Houston, addressed topics that include how airport forecasts are made, how National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) interacts with the Center Weather Service Unit at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, resources available to the aviation community and the anticipated evolution of services.
“These requirements are a part of the FAA NextGen initiative and integrate aviation forecasting with the rest of our forecast,” explained Luchs. “This increases consistency, and creates new ceiling and visibility grids for National Digital Forecast Initiative which can be used for General Aviation airports, en-route flight information, and other non-aviation purposes.”
Pavement Maintenance and Drainage Issues at Your Airport
Harry Lorton, Scoping Engineer, TxDOT, Aviation Division and Tom Freeman, Pavement Management Program Manager, Texas A&M Transportation Institute covered the important topic of managing and maintaining the pavements at our airports. This session included a discussion of the pavement inspection process at airports, as well as profile and deflection testing along with maintenance and repair recommendations.
“Maintenance is the most cost-effective way to extend pavement life,” said Lorton. “It also reduces the total cost of pavement preservation.”
Freeman explained the process behind rating pavements at airports and the major distresses.
“Edge cracking and encroachment, block cracking and weathering and raveling are all examples of the distresses I see,” said Freeman. “Encroachment from weeds and grasses along the edge of the pavement is a big problem. It causes cracking and reduces the pavement width. It may be fixed with mowing, herbicide or grading.”
RAMP Program Manager Amy Slaughter presented an overview of the Routine Airport Maintenance Program (RAMP), which matches local government expenses up to $50,000 for airside and landside maintenance. In her presentation, Slaughter used a QR code survey to quiz participants on what is eligible for RAMP funding.
“Under RAMP, sponsors may partner with a local TxDOT district office to perform crack sealing, fog sealing and/or herbicide application,” said Slaughter while going over the quiz answers. “The sponsor submits an estimated matching share before work begins. The district charges material and labor to the RAMP grant.”
Slaughter also noted which items are not eligible for RAMP, such as courtesy cars or any maintenance to any vehicle or equipment; fuel filters, jet fuel or any other consumables like batteries or indoor replacement light bulbs; work performed before the grant is executed; and carpet cleaning, utility bills, security system monitoring or other operating costs.