Sunday, August 14, 2016

New Braunfels Regional Airport (KBAZ) drawing increased interest as it grows

The New Braunfels airport has come a long way in just a few years, transforming into a thriving regional facility. Recent improvements at the airport provided the groundwork needed for the airport’s current growth spurt.

A 2012-2013 Capital Improvement Plan included upgraded lighting and signage and the extension of Runway 13-31, which was completed in 2015. The City of New Braunfels, the 4B board and the Texas Department of Transportation contributed to the funding for those improvements. And now, Airport Manager Vinicio “Lenny” Llerena said, the airport has been weaned off taxpayer money altogether.

“This is a money-making enterprise,” Llerena said.

With the extended runway, Llerena said, the airport can accommodate more kinds of aircraft.

“We can bring pretty much anything up to the largest regional business jets,” he said.

Moreover, the longer runway means that planes can carry more fuel, which means planes taking off from the New Braunfels Regional Airport can travel farther.

“Anybody can fly from here to anywhere in the United States,” Llerena said. “We’re not just serving local airplanes. We’re serving the nation. It’s a bigger player in the industry.”

Although some flights into and out of the New Braunfels Regional Airport have far-flung destinations, from Boston to Cabo San Lucas, other flights are for people who either get picked up or dropped off at the airport in San Antonio. And some customers at the airport fly specifically to New Braunfels.

“We get people who just fly here to do business,” Llerena said. He gave an example of a plastics company that has plants all over the country. Representatives from that company fly into the New Braunfels facility to go check on their plant in McQueeney.

As the San Antonio airport draws more commercial flights, Llerena said, the New Braunfels Regional Airport and other facilities like it will become more appealing.

“The airspace around San Antonio is very busy,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to operate out of a regional airport.”

The new flexibility at the New Braunfels Regional Airport has attracted new business and new tenants to the facility. In fact, Llerena said one group of investors are looking to build two new hangars — one that will house planes and one that will serve as a maintenance shed near an existing hangar at the airport. To accommodate the additional jets, the airport is preparing to extend a taxi lane toward Farm to Market Road 758. Currently, there is a new road and a corporate hangar under construction at the airport. Older hangars at the northern end of the airport are undergoing renovations to accommodate new tenants. Llerena said rent from the existing hangars at the airport — which are all occupied — covers the payment for the loan the airport received to refurbish the north complex. All in all, within the next six to 12 months, the airport will have a new road, a longer taxi lane and at least four new hangars under construction. This is good news for New Braunfels.

“The beauty of the airport is that it brings in a lot of economic input into the city and the county,” Llerena said. Businesses that keep their aircraft at the airport pay taxes on the aircraft. Other firms that keep equipment stored at the airport pay taxes on the equipment.

“The more we have, the more the tax base increases,” Llerena said. “The more this airport grows, the better it is.”

Besides rent from tenants who lease buildings or land at the airport, fuel sales provide the airport with income. Llerena said fuel sales at the airport are approaching half a million gallons a year.

Llerena said he has been with the New Braunfels airport for about eight years. When he arrived, he said, the facility was a struggling municipal airport.

“When I came in, I changed the visibility of the airport,” he said. “Now, we run it with an approach mirroring a private business. It’s a great airport, and it’s growing.”


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