By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Slaton Municipal Airport (F49), located just south of Lubbock, has recently completed several projects that will make the airport safer and more efficient for their flyers.
Larry Neal is the airport manager and grew up in an aviation family. Neal’s father was a distributer for Piper during World War II.
“My dad’s business was at the Lubbock airport since 1946,” said Neal. “In 1986, my dad retired and the city manager and mayor from Slaton came to my office and asked me if I was interested in moving my business to the Slaton airport. They were looking for someone to run their airport. I visited the Slaton airport and saw that it was in disrepair—there were weeds growing up to the roof of one building—and decided to take some time to consider their offer.”
A couple of days later after learning of a proposed FAA regulation that would make it difficult to operate his business at the Lubbock airport because of the air traffic control tower, Neal decided to make the move to Slaton. Before accepting their offer, though, Neal had a few demands.
“I had a legal pad filled up single-spaced with things that needed to be done,” said Neal. “I did not want to go out there and not have a good airport. I had their support and it was probably the best move I’ve ever made.”
Neal quickly found that his agricultural customers were very comfortable flying into the smaller Slaton facility. His business, Neal Aircraft, Inc., is an Air Tractor dealer and services clients in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado.
With TxDOT’s assistance, Neal has transformed the airport by building additional hangars and completely rehabbing the runway to meet FAA standards.
“With TxDOT’s help, we have turned this airport into a viable asset for this community,” said Neal. “I have a great relationship with them.”
The projects recently completed at the airport include:
- Rehabilitated and marked runway 18-36,
- Rehabilitated apron and stub of taxiway, and
- Construction of a concrete fueling pad, which allows quick refueling of the agricultural aircraft that frequent the airport.
Also housed at the airport is the Caprock Chapter, or The Texas Air Museum, a collection of historic aircraft that are maintained and flown regularly. In addition, the museum has many static displays of military jets and other transport vehicles either owned by or on loan to the museum. The museum is open on most Saturdays.
“Aviation is in my blood,” said Neal. “My mother used to tell people that if I were to fall on the pavement at the Lubbock airport and cracked my skull little planes would fly out, and that’s probably still true!”
For more information about the Slaton Municipal Airport, visit http://www.airnav.com/airport/f49.