NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - The A.L. Mangham Airport in Nacogdoches has a highly visible change going up. A tall fence is being placed around its perimeter.
The fence shouldn't be viewed as unwelcoming, but rather one of several changes underway with pilots in mind.
A tall, wire fence can be seen from Highway 7 West on the south end of the A.L. Mangham Airport in Nacogdoches. Sunny days allowed crews to make headway on the approximately $600,000 Texas Department of Transportation capital improvement project.
"You know security is a big issue right now," said Mary Uresti, the airport's manager "We also have a little bit of a wildlife problem, so hopefully this will also help with that."
It's a valid concern for uncontrollable fields found nationwide in smaller to medium-size cities.
They're the kind of airports that pilots, such as Mike Bletsch of Houston, frequent and prefer.
"We can be here 35, 40 minutes from southwest Houston, and it's just convenient," Bletsch said. We come here quite a bit to Nacogdoches, and we go to the Hill Country, and it's just having small airports across the country that make it really convenient."
Smaller airports are competitive, like hotels. Amenities such as comfortable pilot lounges and accessible Wi-Fi for setting routes are important. Pilots look for hangar space, too. Nacogdoches has 60 of them. Just about all are rented. The biggest draw is affordable fuel.
"I go to Dallas quite a bit and I don't like to pay, be forced to pay, I should say, you know, $6 plus per gallon for aviation fuel, so Nacogdoches airport's fuel is very reasonably priced," Bletsch said. "Some airports I think they price fix things."
If smart, airports avoid practices that could discourage return visits.
"Our larger businesses are going to fly in, rather than drive in, so it's important that we have a well-kept airport," Uresti said.
Lendel Schutzman and crew take note. The herbicide specialist manager from Louisiana is in town for days contributing to economic development.
"Not only hotel rooms, but purchasing water from the city or whatever location that they send us to, as well as all the meals and the eating that we do at the various restaurants where ever we are," Schutzman said.
Currently, Nacogdoches airport planners are planning for future buildings to attract new business, such as a flight school.
Not all residents use the airport, but supporting it to bring back the ones who do can generate revenue beneficial to the city as a whole.
"I'll just put it this way," Bletsch said with a chuckle. "I don't like to see my credit card bill from my wife when we leave a particular city."
Airports like the one in Nacogdoches must follow FAA regulations to maintain eligibility for grants. An old rule allowed fifty percent of the space in a hanger to be used for storing non-aviation related items. Now, the FAA says only 15-percent can be used for those items. The idea is to keep federal tax dollars supporting airports for primarily aviation use.