By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
San Antonio is a city steeped in history. Whether touring the iconic 18th-century Spanish mission The Alamo or the Spanish Governor’s Palace, to any visitor it’s clear that the city embraces its rich cultural history. Stinson Municipal Airport (SSF), a designated reliever airport located seven miles south of downtown San Antonio, is the second oldest general aviation airport in continuous operation in the United States making it a perfect fit for the city.
But don’t be fooled by the 100-year-old airport’s age nor the terminal building built in 1936, which recently underwent an extensive renovation and expansion that modernized the building while maintaining the original design’s integrity. This is a modern, thriving airport in every sense of the word.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve had $30 million in capital improvements from the terminal building expansion to the runway extension,” noted Nathan Polsgrove, Chief Strategy and Development Officer for the San Antonio Airport System. “There’s an additional $24 million planned in the next few years. We are fortunate that our city leadership is incredibly supportive of Stinson.”
One of the upcoming projects is a new air traffic control tower that will feature a unique winged design. Construction on the new tower began on March 29.
“We had a design competition that had 13 different architectural firms submit plans,” said Stinson Airport Manager Morris Martin. “I think it was appropriate being the wings over Stinson. It does add a little bit of cost and time to the project, but I think it shows the level of commitment that our city government has to making this airport unique. We are a good match with the history of San Antonio, and we have several projects that are going to tie into the local heritage sites.”
Martin was the recipient of TxDOT’s 2017 Reliever Airport Manager of the Year award.
One of the projects is a looped hike and bike trail connecting Stinson to the Mission Reach river trail. The $2.4 million project is slated for completion in 2018. Connecting the Stinson terminal building to the hike and bike trail will be a new parking lot and plaza, due for completion in 2017.
Other upcoming projects include a land prep project that will prepare 32 acres of property for future hangar development, a wayfinding signage project, an aeronautical survey to determine opportunities for new or improved approaches and a new parkway that will improve airport access.
Besides the ongoing improvement projects, the airport is home to a first-class FBO (FBO Gate One) and a new barbecue restaurant called The Big Bib.
Other tenants include:
- Texas Air Museum
- Texas Air Shuttle charter operation
- Alamo Helicopters helicopter operation
- San Antonio Police Helicopter Unit
- Red Wing Aerials aerial photos
“Right now we have an RFI (request for information) about the viability of building a hangar style hotel,” said Polsgrove. “And we are implementing a frequent user loyalty program where visitors to the airport have a punch card that will go toward receiving a Stinson Airport gold coin.”
From aviation-themed movie nights to hosting kid day fly-in events, the airport has a close and important connection with the large community.
“The city is very proud of its history, and we’re an important part of that history,” said Martin. “But one of the things we do is also look ahead to the future to keep us strong and viable for the next 100 years.”
Editor’s Note: Nathan Polsgrove is no longer employed at the San Antonio Airport System at the time of this publication.