By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
I arrived at the South Texas Regional Airport (formerly known as Hondo Municipal) last summer beaten down from a long drive in the epic heat wave with which we Texans had to contend. When I entered the terminal building and glanced around, I became a bit concerned that Tim Fousse may have forgotten our appointment made several weeks prior. No need for concern, though, as I glanced out the front window and saw Fousse’s truck barreling toward the terminal.
And so it goes with Fousse, the enthusiastic, go-getter manager of the Hondo airport who is seldom witnessed sitting still.
“Oh yes, there’s always something going on out here,” said Fousse as we began our tour of the expansive airport which covers 3,600 acres. “We were one of the first airports to install self- and full-service aircraft fueling facilities using the Aviation Division’s fuel farm program.”
Another recent update was the addition of a modern 4,000-square-foot terminal building available to pilots 24 hours a day, with amenities that include:
- visitor’s waiting area,
- complete pilot lounge,
- flight planning area,
- restrooms with showers,
- free WI-FI and
- private conference room.
Situated on the southern edge of the Texas Hill Country, the airport uses its favorable location to attract hunters and other commerce.
The airport also has a flight academy run by U.S. Aviation. The academy graduated its first flight academy class in February, and the second in early April. They have an additional 50 students arriving in May and June of this year.
Supported by certificates of obligation backed by the city’s Type B economic development sales tax, Hondo has leveraged grant funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to enhance airport facilities. The airport is leveraging its land assets to successfully attract economic development to the city, providing jobs and business opportunities.
“The airport construction done at this facility from 2006 to 2009 is a true testament to TxDOT’s ability to provide assistant to an airport sponsor,” said Fousse, who saw his efforts pay off by winning the 2009 TxDOT General Aviation Airport of the Year award. “I always believed this airport was a diamond in the rough, and by granting these funds, we were able to see a transformation at this airport.” A newly renovated runway and taxiways are further projects completed to upgrade this facility.
In fact, capital expenditures for infrastructure and other airport improvements from 2006 to 2010 generated $10.9 million in economic activity that created 120 job-years of employment. (A job-year equals one job lasting one year.)
The city of Hondo and the Hondo Economic Development Corporation also funded the development of the rail intermodal facility, and this infrastructure is attracting tens of millions of dollars in private investment to the region. The rail connection serves as a transfer point for high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners to soft drink bottling plants in San Antonio as well as automotive ethanol trans-loading, fracture sand trans-loading and crude oil collection and shipping. Development of a rail intermodal facility on airport-owned property makes the airport one of only two air-rail intermodal facilities in Texas.
“This is such a unique community,” said Fousse. “We want to provide a good, clean modern environment that our clients can trust and depend on. And judging by favorable comments, I believe we’re hitting our mark.”
The South Texas Regional Airport is a former U.S. Army Air Corps base that was deeded to the city of Hondo after World War II. It has four runways and is situated on about 3,600 acres of land.
17L/35R – 6,002 ft. x 100 ft.
13/31 – 5,545 ft. x 150 ft.
8/26 – 3,451 ft. x 75 ft.
17R/35L – 3,224 ft. x 140 ft.
Latitude / Longitude
29-21-32.8700N / 099-10-38.9700W
Location—2 miles northwest of Hondo, TX. Hondo is located west of San Antonio