By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
The entrance road of the Angelina County Airport is quite a sight. Tall live oaks line the entry road, similar to the famous Magnolia Lane entrance to the Augusta National Golf Club. But at the end of this impressive canopy is not a golf course; rather, a jewel of an airport that has garnered several awards over the years.
The 2019 winner of the most improved airport epitomizes true teamwork as airport staff and local government officials utilized their available resources to completely revamp an airport that is popular for business aviation, training and recreational flying.
“It was certainly nice to have that recognition,” said Airport Manager Gary Letney who began his job three years ago. “I was thrilled to death to win the award because of what it means to the airport. It’s been nice with new businesses coming into town to see that award and they love to be associated with us.”
Several years ago, using an airport improvement program grant, the Angelina County Airport began an ambitious project to improve all of the pavement surfaces. The project team removed and reconstructed portions of their taxiway and asphalt around their existing hangars. They performed crack sealing on all remaining taxiway and runway surfaces that were not repaired.
To finish off their new pavement, all taxiways and both runways were remarked. Making sure this work was built to last, extensive drainage improvements were made to ensure this work was built to last. This includes the installation of French drains around the taxiway and T-hangars as well as the replacement of an inadequate drainage culvert on the entrance road with a box culvert to remove water from airport grounds.
The airport also utilized RAMP grants to provide funds for self-service fuel pumps and the replacement of the terminal building septic system. The RAMP grants also provided funds for:
- installation of hangar door rollers
- replacement of rusted-out beams in other hangars
- repair of faulty electronics on the Avgas fuel tank
- security cameras, and
- runway and taxiway light repair and replacement
“I think that other than mowing the grass TxDOT has helped us out with everything else,” chuckled Letney. “They have been stellar partners to work with.”
The county also pitched in to the airport improvement effort by donating a courtesy car for visitors and a truck for maintenance, replacing hangar flooring and repairing asphalt at the ramp entrance gate. The county also played a large role in helping the airport prepare for a large airshow that numbered 12,000 attendees by preparing roads and fields for attendees. Finally, funds were supplied for a tractor and chain saws were purchased to help trim the 300 trees along the entrance road.
“The support of local county officials made all this possible,” noted Assistant Airport Manager Claude Riddle. “We’ve always had excellent support from the city of Lufkin and surrounding communities.”
Also contributing to the airport’s overhaul was the Experimental Aircraft Association, who provided funds for tool and oil storage buildings and built three pavilions for public use, such as enjoying lunch at the airport café while watching planes. The Experimental Aircraft Association also provided funds for the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster memorial.
The aforementioned café is a popular destination for both aviators and the local community who keep the place hopping while enjoying their delicious cheeseburgers. The café is open 7:00AM-2:30PM Monday through Saturday and offers excellent views of the field.
Next up for the airport is future hangar development and taxiway construction to address the demand for hangar space and a game fence.
But perhaps the greatest point of pride for the Angelina County Airport is that it is completely self-sufficient.
“Politically, it’s always great to tell someone about our $26 million a year economic output, and that we don’t take any local taxpayer money,” said Letney. “When you think about what a tremendous asset that is—it’s all about the local community and businesses who drive that economic growth. We want to provide first class facilities so that we continue to attract businesses to use our airport.”