Goliad Airfield reopens in Berclair (video)

Dec. 17, 2012 at 6:17 a.m.

BERCLAIR - He made it from Corpus Christi to Goliad in about 10 minutes Monday.

But that's easy to do in a T-6 Texan zooming at nearly 300 mph, said Commander James Norris, call sign "J-No," with the U.S. Navy.

Norris flew the new plane to the Navy Outlying Field Goliad on Monday for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, celebrating the opening of the new airfield.

"We are very excited. The Goliad airfield is extremely nice. It will be able to help us train naval aviators to go out to the fleet, offering air support to servicemen," Norris said.

The Goliad field is used to practice touch-and-go landings for pilots in primary training from the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, said David Edgecomb, commanding officer for the Corpus Christi base and the outlying fields.

Now the main outlying site for the T-6 Texan, Goliad County started allowing pilots land on Nov. 26.

"We consider Goliad essential to our pilot flight training for the Navy, and we did a lot of work on the field. ... We are to the point where we are flying T-6s here every day, which is exciting," Edgecomb said.

Because community members expressed concern about the increased noise in the area, Goliad County Judge David Bowman spent time outside during the ceremony to listen to the low-level approaches.

"I wanted to get a gauge on the noise level, but it was minimal. There was a generator on the side of the building that was making more noise than the plane. It appears those concerns were unfounded," Bowman said.

Vanessa Larimore, of Goliad, came to the grand opening to see the new facility and the planes that were brought in for community members to observe.

"I think it is a good asset to the county. It is a neat experience to have something like this in our county," Larimore said.

She is proud the Navy chose Goliad to train future pilots, she said, and added that she doesn't think noise will be a problem.

About 40 community members spent the morning touring the new facilities, including a new fire station and improved runways and looking at the planes and fire equipment.

"It looks complicated to me; I think this is to dial 911," Bowman joked, as he surveyed the cockpit from the wing of the plane.

Norris and other pilots also took a tour as the firefighters stationed at the base gave rides and demonstrations from the 1,500-gallon fire truck stationed at the base.

The Corpus Christi Naval Air Station has eight planes in operation, with three more expected to come in this week and four more to come in January.

In the next two years, Norris said, they hope to have 98 planes flying from Corpus Christi.

Goliad County bought the airport, originally built by the Navy in the 1970s and known as the Chase Naval Air Station Auxiliary Landing Field Berclair, from the Navy in 1999 for $1, said Bob Torres, public affairs officer for the Navy.

In summer 2011, the Navy bought back the airfield from the county, offering $2.36 million, Torres said.

However, Bowman said another appraisal company valued the airport at $9 million. The county has a lawsuit pending in federal court against the Navy to increase the value of the field.



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