By Rick Davenport
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
The James Brown that manages Bryan’s Coulter Field may not be “the Godfather of Soul,” but he certainly feels good about aviation. Born in Waco in 1985, Brown, 27, was hired in May, possibly making him the youngest airport manager of a general aviation airport in Texas, and perhaps even the country.
However, don’t assume that Brown’s youth and inexperience works against him. Talk aviation with him, and you immediately realize he has a vision for a different Coulter.
Brown was hired by Kevin Russell, airport director for the City of Bryan. “I was impressed right away during the interview process. You could tell he was eager to take charge,” Russell says of their first meeting, and was struck by some of his ideas.
“There is a lot of potential here,” Brown says, in a matter-of-fact tone. “The decisions we make now have the potential of changing our community. A feasibility plan has recently been approved, and within that is a proposal to extend the runway, which would be a boon to our area. Combined with numerous other projects that are planned and already approved, Coulter could soon become a bigger asset to the region.” Brown is responsible for developing Coulter’s first-ever business plan.
His interest in aviation began with a fascination with aircraft engines. He never wanted to be a pilot; he wanted to know how the engines worked and how to fix them. He would become an avionics technician for Boeing before signing on as an airport maintenance technician at the New Braunfels Regional Airport. While there, the airport underwent a dramatic transformation under the leadership of another young airport manager. Lenny Llerena initiated a $12 million capital improvement project for New Braunfels. As a result of the major changes at New Braunfels, Llerena was named the 2012 General Aviation Manager of the Year.
“I’m not surprised that James was selected as Coulter’s airport manager,” Llerena says. “He was ambitious and I was more than happy to share my ideas. He understood what I was trying to do and why. I don’t care if you’re 27 or 87, if you are ambitious and have a vision, I don’t think it matters.”
Brown thinks some of the same improvements that happened at New Braunfels can also happen at Coulter. It already has a good start.
Pilots are now able to obtain weather information about Coulter Field after an automated weather observation station (AWOS) was purchased by the City of Bryan with assistance from TxDOT’s Aviation Facilities Grant Program; a new hangar was just completed adding to the 12 other hangars on site; an expansion to the airport’s parking lot has been proposed; an upgrade the fuel farm is being considered; a drainage project and a game fencing plan have been approved; an upgrade to the runway lighting system will begin next year; and of course, the proposal to extend the runway to 5000 feet.
“If the runway extension is approved, being able to have corporate jets land at Coulter will be great news for the numerous pilots who have to go to other airports with longer runways,” Brown explains. “If they can come here, they will spend money in the region and they will buy fuel at our airport.”
With all the improvements on the horizon, Brown knows that none of them would be possible without support from city officials and the community. He’s especially proud of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event hosted at Coulter Field each spring.
“That’s where I get a lot of satisfaction,” Brown says. “My goal is to make sure the public and local organizations understand that this airport belongs to them.”
For more information about Coulter Field, visit their website at http://www.bryantx.gov/coulterairfield/