Tag Archives: Rick Husband Airport

AMA goes ‘flaps up’ to PHX

I have lived in Amarillo for more than 23 years and I do not remember the kind of hype that preceded a takeoff this morning from Rick Husband-Amarillo International Airport.

An American Airlines jet took off today for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. It got lots of media coverage. It was the first non-stop flight between AMA and PHX.

I get that it’s a big deal. I also understand how Amarillo’s airport has become a vital economic development recruitment tool. It’s a small terminal compared to the other locations it serves with non-stop flights: Sky Harbor, Dallas Love Field, George Bush (Houston) Intercontinental and Dallas-Fort Worth and Denver International.

What’s important to understand, though, is that most of those terminals (Love Field being the exception) connect AMA with virtually any destination in the world.

The Amarillo-Phoenix connection aims to boost leisure as well as business travel to the desert Southwest. As the Amarillo Globe-News story noted, airport officials couldn’t state whether the maiden flight to Sky Harbor was full.

According to the Globe-News: Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said, “I’m proud when people land here at our airport. It reflects us as a community; it reflects our creativity; it reflects our history and our culture. So I’m very, very proud of our airport.”

The city has invested a lot in its air terminal. I, too, happen to be proud of the air service we get in Amarillo. It has just improved a good bit with a heavily promoted service to a new community.

I am going to remain confident that this new air service will be worth the hype that preceded its first flight out west.

It’s dark, drizzly, dreary … but our spirits shine brightly!

The temperature won’t rise much above 40 degrees Fahrenheit today.

The clouds won’t lift and the sun will set somewhere on the other side of them.

It’s been dark and drizzly all day.

And the spirits of Texas Panhandle residents haven’t been this bright and cheery since, oh, I don’t know when.

It hasn’t rained much today. I don’t know what the National Weather Service rain gauge will read at the end of the day. My wife, Toby the Puppy and I are living within spittin’ distance of the NWS station next to Rick Husband-Amarillo International Airport. That means whatever the NWS reports will mirror what we will have received at our RV park.

One of the local TV weather forecasters was described by his news anchor colleague as being “giddy” about the rain that has fallen over the region. Amarillo hasn’t yet gotten much of it; more rain is forecast during the night and again Wednesday morning and into the afternoon.

The irony is weird, man! Our spirits have soared as the sky has darkened, bringing badly needed moisture to a region that has been rain- and snow-starved during the entire winter of 2017-18.

Dare we expect to make up our precipitation deficit any time soon? Umm. No. We’ll simply accept what we get with extreme gratitude.

We’ve needed some reason to smile around here. The rain has delivered it.

They’re pitching this new flight service — seriously!

I’ve lived in Amarillo, Texas for more than 23 years.

During that time I have not seen such a concerted advertising campaign to pitch airline service out of this city’s international airport.

Until now.

American Airlines is about to launch new daily non-stop service from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It’s a big deal. I’ve said as much already on this blog. I get the attraction for business travelers as well as for families seeking quick and convenient air service to a vacation destination.

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

This new service appears to hold considerable promise for the airline and for the city. I appreciate and understand the value of modern, convenient air service. We have it here, to the great credit of City Hall and the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

That promise must explain the TV advertising I keep seeing.

It  makes me curious as to why.

  • Delta Airlines once launched daily non-stop service between AMA and Memphis, Tenn. It didn’t take. Delta terminated the service after a brief period of time. Then the airline stopped flying to Amarillo altogether.
  • Southwest has been flying daily to Las Vegas out of Amarillo for several years. I haven’t seen the TV ads promoting that service.
  • United has flown non-stop to Denver for some time, too. No ads. Now the airline is flying non-stop to George Bush-Houston Intercontinental Airport; it assumed that service when United merged with Continental Airlines. No ads, either.

Perhaps we are witnessing a new, more aggressive marketing strategy with American’s new service between AMA and PHX.

Given that TV ad time doesn’t come cheap, I hope the investment pays off for the entire city.

Enjoying a front-row seat of progress

Our new “home” across the way from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport and the Bell Helicopter aircraft assembly plant has given me a front-row seat to an amazing display of engineering and economic progress.

My wife and I have been living at an RV park within spittin’ distance of AMA and Bell. From our living room we are able to watch jets fly in and out of the airport while also witnessing test flights of a state-of-the-art combat aircraft that is put together right here on the High Plains.

I refer, of course, to the V-22 Osprey, the notable tilt-rotor aircraft that’s seen plenty of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years. The Marine Corps has been using the bird to ferry troops and supplies on and off battlefields in both countries for, oh, about the past decade.

The Osprey hasn’t been without controversy. Many of us recall the terrible crash in Arizona that killed nearly 20 Marines on a test flight.

The Osprey, though, has been re-engineered since that crash. It has been improved. It has been modified to some degree. Today, from what I have heard, it has performed its mission well. The aircraft gives American fighting personnel quicker entrance and exit from the battlefield.

Amarillo used an interesting — and occasionally mocked — economic tool to lure Bell/Textron to the High Plains in the late 1990s. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation offered a lot of money that it collects from sales tax revenue to Bell/Textron, which ended up receiving about $45 million in various inducements, including tax abatements and free land next to AMA.

Bell returned to Amarillo, where it once repaired and maintained Huey helicopters during the Vietnam War.

AEDC hit a home run when it lured Bell/Textron to the region. We have seen it grow over the years, expanding its mission.

I think of all this on occasion as I watch the Osprey take off and land. I recall the ridicule we heard from the Fort Worth area that lost the Bell operation, thanks to Amarillo’s aggressive and creative marketing campaign.

I also look with some pride at what this community has been able to accomplish for its local economic health as well as contributing to the nation’s vaunted military establishment.

I spoke once with a Marine pilot who was stationed in Amarillo to test-fly the Osprey earlier in its development. He mentioned to me how this aircraft was so hard to learn to fly, but once he got the hang of it, the Osprey has turned out to be a lot of fun to fly.

On occasion I think of that Marine as I watch the Osprey glide through its paces above us, and I wonder how much fun they’re having overhead.

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

I read with some interest a story this week about the Amarillo City Council approving a contract with American Airlines that sets up direct flights between Amarillo and Phoenix, Ariz.

The non-stop flights begin in April. The contract will be for one year; American Airlines will decide at the end of that year whether to extend it depending on its profitability.

My sincere hope is that American keeps the jets in the air between AMA and PHX.

Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has been a favored lure for the city as an economic development tool. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation once subsidized American Airlines jet service between AMA and Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport; AEDC took a portion of the sales tax revenue it collects and paid the airline to maintain jet service.

AEDC eventually ended the subsidy. The airline dropped jet service for a brief period, but since has restored full jet service to DFW. It now will fly jets out of Amarillo to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

I’ve long touted the value of Amarillo’s air service to my friends and colleagues for as long as I have lived here. We don’t have many air carriers serving this community — American, Southwest and United. But two of those carriers, American and United, have plenty of international flights. When you depart AMA aboard either of those carriers, you are essentially just one stop away from connecting to flights that will take you anywhere on Earth.

Southwest is a highly profitable regional carrier and AMA gets service not just to Dallas Love Field, but also non-stop jet service to Las Vegas, Nev.

While much of our attention — mine included — has focused on downtown revival and on the extensive highway reconstruction along Interstates 40 and 27 as well as on Loop 335, we also can look with considerable pride at the airport that serves the Texas Panhandle.

I once spoke with Sarah Freese, the former aviation director at AMA, about the possibility of getting more carriers to serve this airport. She was hopeful at the time of attracting at least one more carrier. Freese has since moved on and I don’t know the status of the city’s effort to lure more carriers here. I hope it hasn’t withered away.

Amarillo’s airport remains a potentially big draw that will lead to the city’s brightening economic future.

AMA gets chance to boost city business climate

Amarillo long has seen its international airport as a gateway to the city’s economic well being.

If you look back over recent history, you find examples of the city forking over public money to keep jet service between the airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; critics called that initiative a form of “economic bribery.” I called it at the time a bold and creative initiative to help make business travel more comfortable for those seeking to do business in Amarillo.

The money came from sales tax revenue collected by the Amarillo Economic Development Corp.

So, with that the city has announced that American Airlines is going to begin daily non-stop service between Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. They’ll fly once daily between AMA and PHX.

The AEDC, City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce see it as a big business opportunity, connecting Amarillo with a key hub out west, enabling travelers to avoid flying east to DFW just to connect and fly west.

That’s a good idea … if the city markets the opportunity as aggressively as it did the AEDC subsidy it paid to American Airlines back when it sought to entice the carrier to keep the jets flying to DFW.

Since I am fully retired and since my wife and I will spend the vast bulk of our domestic travel time in our fifth wheel RV rather than in airports, I don’t have a particular dog in this so-called fight.

For the rest of Amarillo — which appears to be entering an accelerated growth mode — this new air service is good news.

Let there be more.

We’re soaked around here, but is drought really over?

I’m going to have to do the virtually unheard of thing later today: At not quite the halfway point in August, I’m going to empty our rain gauge, which is full of water.

We’ve gotten slightly more than 5 inches of rain at our humble abode in southwest Amarillo so far this month. My wife and I empty it at the end of each month before waiting for more rainfall. This month has been a soaker, man!

The National Weather Service station near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport reports that Amarillo has received 19 inches of rain year to date; that’s 5 inches more than normal and 6 inches more than we had at this time in 2016.

So, put another way, we’ve achieved just about our average annual amount of precipitation — and we still have more than four months to go in this calendar year.

All of this begs the question: Is the drought over?

I’ve heard it said about the crippling drought the High Plains endured in 2011 that it would take an epic amount of rain to bring us officially out of drought status. I cannot remember the specifics, but given that the Ogallala Aquifer takes so very long to recharge given its depth that the rain has to fall in virtually biblical amounts to break the drought.

I’m going to continue believing that and monitor my water use accordingly.

We don’t have one of those automated irrigation systems in our yard. So that’s not a particular issue for my wife and me. We serviced our outdoor faucets during the depths of the drought, so we’re good there. We do things in the kitchen such as turn on the sink faucet sparingly when washing dishes. We remodeled one of our bathrooms a couple of years ago and had one of those “gravity flush” toilets installed, which saves water.

We’re not paragons environmental purity. I don’t intend to portray us as such. Water preservation, though, remains on the top of my mind’s awareness, even when it’s pouring out of the sky.

I keep thinking, too, about that fabulous PBS documentary “The Dust Bowl” that aired not long ago. It told the terrible, horrifying story of how prolonged drought and reckless farming techniques formed a sort of “perfect storm” that created what has been called the nation’s “worst manmade environmental catastrophe.” The Texas and Oklahoma panhandles were in the bullseye of that hideous event.

Our farming techniques have improved since the 1930s. Yes, we can control how we take care of our land. The return of the kind of Dust Bowl-era drought, though, is far beyond our meager effort to dictate to Mother Nature.

Let’s keep that in mind — even as we welcome the rain that keeps drenching us.

AMA may get big new service boost

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Perhaps you’ve experienced this bit of airline travel frustration flying out of Amarillo.

You book a flight, say, to San Francisco. But to get there you have to fly about 90 minutes east to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where you board another aircraft and re-fly across land you’ve just watched out your window as you zoomed toward the Metroplex.

That might change significantly.

Amarillo aviation director Sarah Freese is negotiating with American Airlines to add another non-stop flight west to Phoenix — the one way out there in Arizona.

Thus, the notion goes that air passengers might stand a better chance of avoiding the dreaded re-flyover routine.

This is good news for those of us who like fly west once in a while.

Understand this: I don’t fly too much. I do venture back to my hometown of Portland, Ore., on occasion. Sure, I can get there with stops in Denver or Las Vegas, which are served by United and Southwest Airlines, respectively from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

The Phoenix route, though, gives travelers from AMA another option that might help them find a better fare than they otherwise would pay.

http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2016-09-06/amarillo-airport-hopes-add-non-stop-flight-phoenix?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook_Amarillo_Globe-News

Freese received a Transportation Department grant to enable the city to seek the Phoenix connection.

The aviation director noted that flying east “when you want to go west” makes you “want to beat your head against the wall.”

Amen to that.

Let’s hope the city finalizes the Phoenix route soon and makes even better use of its still-shiny new airport terminal.

A pleasant airport/flying story … finally!

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We’ve all bemoaned how unpleasant air travel has become since 9/11.

Long lines at security checkpoints; having to virtually undress to get through the scanners; occasionally brusque treatment from Transportation Safety Administration personnel; old folks and babies being whisked away for more intense interrogation.

I’m going to impart to you a pleasant airport tale that, frankly, caught my wife and I by surprise as we traveled to Germany.

We arrived at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport well in advance of our departure. We checked out luggage at the American Airlines ticket counter. We then proceeded to the security area expecting to be all but frisked and body searched by an overzealous TSA agent.

The fellow who greeted us checked out boarding passes and then handed us each a shiny card and said we could present it to the other agent standing by the body scanner. It would enable us to proceed through an “expedited” scanning process, meaning we didn’t have to take off our shoes and go through all the other normal nonsense.

Zoom! We were through slick as a whistle.

We proceeded to the gate area, where we purchased a hot drink and a bagel. The young woman asked us a bit later if we wanted coffee refills. “Well … yes. That would be nice,” my wife said. So, she gave us a refill and wished us safe travels.

We flew to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport aboard a brand new Embraer jet; a flight attendant told us it was brought online just this past spring. The flight was smoooooth, man!

We then went looking for where to eat at D/FW. We found a sandwich joint. The waitress could not possibly have been nicer, more courteous and efficient. She, too, wished us well as went to our gate.

Then we boarded a Boeing 777-200 jumbo jet for the nine-hour flight to Frankfurt. We departed at precisely the scheduled time and took off.

To top it all off, we arrived at our destination 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

So … there you have it. Traveling by air can be a pleasant experience.

Now, if only I could learn to sleep on an airplane.

Rain, rain, rain … and there's still a drought

Those of us who live on the Texas Tundra are enjoying the rain that’s pelting these parts.

We had more than an inch of it today, according to the National Weather Service office at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

This means we’re more than 2 inches over normal precipitation for the year to date.

Great news? Absolutely!

Is it a drought-buster? Hardly.

Can we predict what the weather will do for the rest of the year? We cannot predict for the rest of the week.

I stopped by Amarillo City Hall about a week ago and noticed the city’s “Every Drop Counts” water-use monitor over the first-floor elevator. The water use goal for that day was 48 million gallons; the actual use that day was 19 million gallons. Folks who normally water their lawns time of year didn’t turn the sprinklers on to irrigate their grass.

I reckon tomorrow’s water-use meter will register similar figures.

That, too, is great news.

I prefer to stay in water-conservation mode, no matter how much rain we get.

You see, it’s going to take a literal deluge to eradicate the drought threat that continues to draw down the water flowing through the Ogallala Aquifer, which gives our region its life.

The recent rainfall — and the prospect of more of it in the days and weeks ahead — gives City Hall, the water conservation districts, the counties and even the state a chance to remind us of what some of us sometimes forget when we get any significant moisture.

It’s that the drought hasn’t let up. The Texas drought remains a serious threat to our way of life — and even our lives.