Often, we don’t have a good understanding of what property we actually own.
We own our streets, schools, water supply, a hospital, a health department and last, but not least, an airport.
Most of us don’t use the airport on a daily basis like we do our streets and our water supply, but the airport is a first class facility that has private and passenger air service for this region. It was once Foster Field, a military base used in the 1940s and 1950s.
It was a matter of civic pride that a Save Foster Field effort was made by Senators Lyndon Johnson and Ralph Yarborough, but that effort failed and the airport closed in 1959. The federal government then traded Aloe Field for Foster Field, and by 1976, the County had extensively remodeled Foster Field and opened it as Victoria Regional Airport.
A nearly 1,800 acre facility, the airport has more than 50,000 aircraft operations per year, which serve both the general public and businesses in the area. It is essential to our continued growth.
Of course, our airport is a small one, since the population of this area is around 105,000 people. And that has meant that the airport depends on funds allocated to smaller cities to allow them to have access to air service for their population and businesses.
For anyone who has used the airport, it is clear that while the facility is first rate, the reliability of commercial flights has been abysmal. The only consistency was flights that did not take off. It was a race to the bottom, when it came to the many airlines that came and went during the last 20 years or so. Changes were made so often because the flying public had suffered enough cancellations and horribly late flights.
On one memorable occasion, I was aboard one of these airplanes, and it wouldn’t start. It was a single engine. The pilot was talking to the mechanic on the ground, with the pilot’s window open. The mechanic said he could see jet fuel on the ground, and the pilot hollered “you flooded it,” as if it was a lawn mower. That was the last straw. I too had to start driving to Houston, which is a dicey proposition in its own right, given the traffic on the Southwest Freeway.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, county officials announced that yet another carrier would be serving us: a United Airlines commuter airline, Skywest Airlines. When long time passengers read that, we knew that maybe, just maybe we would have what we all want: an airline that is on time and taking care of its customers. Taking a two or three hour journey and turning into a 25 minute flight. On a real jet, with a real flight attendant.
Soon after, I noticed that most flights were actually early. The airline is a code share United Airlines partner, which we can receive real time flight alerts, seat assignments and the confidence of knowing our bags will arrive at their final destination. We even know when our aircraft leaves Houston in real time. In the bad old days, we would not be told of a delay or cancellation until we were at the airport, leaving us helpless in terms of alternatives.
It was proof that not giving up was a good strategy. The airport commission and the county’s commissioners had made a good decision, and just in time. Over the years, fewer and fewer of us were using the airport, risking our funding from the federal government. This was because of a vicious cycle: fewer passengers and then even worse reliability. It was unsustainable.
That cycle has ended. Now the airport and its airline are both reliable and competent. Many of us who have waited for this development are now routinely flying from Victoria instead of driving to Houston, San Antonio or Austin. Not only is this more convenient, it makes us taxpayers happy to use our own facility. Our petrochemical plants, businesses and the general public need reliable air service in this increasingly connected world.
Now that we’ve matched our first class airport with an excellent carrier, the public should be experiencing this for themselves. The growing number of those flying out of Victoria is a good development, and keeping that trend going will go a long way to making sure this treasure of a facility remains viable and successful into the future.