Wednesday, October 25, 2017

City Council hires fixed based operator for Smithville Crawford Municipal Airport (84R)

J.D. and Laura Casteel stand in the SouthWest Texas Aviation hangar while discussing future plans. The company also won the bid as Smithville Crawford Municipal Airport’s fixed base operator. 

The Smithville City Council recently hired SouthWest Texas Aviation, a husband and wife team, as the fixed base operators at Smithville Crawford Municipal Airport.

The only airport in Bastrop County, which has between 20 to 25 landings per day, City Manager Robert Tamble said it’s an important part of the city. Many of the landings at the airport are used by pilots for training purposes.

SouthWest Texas Aviation owners J.D. and Laura Casteel say they have big plans for the facility. The company will provide airplane mechanic services, inspections, fuel, assistance to pilots and will maintain runway lights. It also hopes to provide flight instruction soon.

Laura Casteel and Daniel Smith, a certified airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanic, are licensed pilots. Smith, who was a commercial airlines pilot, is able to instruct flight at all levels with his advanced training. Laura Casteel is pursuing her instructors license.

“Our goal is to make it as affordable as possible,” J.D. said, adding that the cost of flying isn’t cheap.

The Casteels’ love of flight is apparent. They had their first date at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, an annual air show in Wisconsin. Within six months, they were engaged. They return to the airshow every year.

They’ve also made other life-changing decisions at the show regarding their business, including the decision to buy SouthWest Texas Aviation from its retiring owner in San Marcos.

The company rents the hangar next to the pilot’s lounge for $600 a month for the Casteels’ mechanics business. As fixed base operators, they will be using the pilot’s lounge office with daily hours from Monday through Saturday.

Both Laura and J.D. are A&P mechanics. J.D. earned his certificate in 2002 in Oklahoma then attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University to pursue a statistics degree. He had worked in sales and insurance before meeting Laura. JD also holds an inspection authorization.

Laura began her aviation career in 2007 as an assistant manager at Boerne Stage Airfield. She said she loved aviation so much, she began flying lessons, and earned her private pilot license in 2010. She obtained her A&P certificate in 2013 from St. Phillips College in San Antonio, after obtaining her statistics degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The crew is rounded out by Chad Cox, also an A&P mechanic.

“We’re blessed that we get to be around planes,” J.D. said. “It’s what we love to do.”

Though they can work on any airplane, they specialize as a factory-authorized service center for Mooney and Diamond aircraft.

“The FFA is very, very strict on the maintenance that goes into planes,” J.D. said.

But the duties for the Casteels won’t stop at airport management, mechanics and flight, the couple plans to promote the airport and bring new business to Smithville.

“They’re willing to promote Smithville,” Tamble said. “You land, you eat, you go around town.”

In their proposal, the Casteels said: “The atmosphere and the services we offer will be stepping stones for the growth of the Smithville Crawford Municipal Airport.”

“I’ve worked on planes from Kansas, Germany, South America,” J.D. said. “Beautiful thing about planes, they come in from all over the place.”

The Casteel’s bought the 32-year-old San Marcos company in 2015 and have recently relocated it to the Smithville airport to “continue the great reputation” of SouthWest Texas Aviation.

Both from small towns with parents who owned businesses, they are glad to be in Smithville among “friendly, helpful people.”

“The people here at the airport have bent over backwards to help us,” J.D. said

The couple’s hobbies, aside from anything flight related, include baseball, cooking exotic recipes and trying out new restaurants.

Having moved from San Marcos earlier this month, J.D. and Laura are now full-time residents with Jet, their husky-malamute mix. There will be an additional little Smithvillian arriving in March. The couple’s baby was conceived at the air show.

“Everything happens in Oshkosh,” J.D. joked.

Now everything will be happening in Smithville.

Original article can be found here ➤

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