Elon Musk may have moved Tesla and many of his other business interests to Central Texas, but the billionaire is insisting that he has no intention of building a private airport in the area.
Musk flatly denied recent media reports that he has plans for a private airport near Bastrop.
“Not true. Tesla is 5 mins from Austin International airport. Would be silly to build another private airport, however, the existing commercial airport needs another runway, as Austin is growing fast!” Musk said in a tweet, replying to the San Antonia Express-News, which wrote about the report.
The Federal Aviation Administration, the agency that would have to sign off on plans for any new US airport, told the American-Statesman that it has received no proposals for a new airport near Austin.
The FAA requires applicants to fill out a form related to the construction, alteration and activation of a proposed airport. The FAA would then inspect the site to determine if it is safe to operate an airport there. If the agency determines that it would be, a variety of other administrative steps would still have to be taken before any permits would be issued.
Adena Lewis, director of tourism and economic development for Bastrop County, also said Bastrop County has not had any communication with Musk about a possible airport site.
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Lots of red tape
When considering an application for a new private airport, the FAA considers a number of questions, including how a new facility would interact with existing airports in the region, said Andrew Perry, executive director of Austin Executive Airport, a general aviation facility in Pflugerville. Requirements for a private airport would vary based on the type and size of aircraft it intends to service. Small single-engine airplanes would have different requirements for weather than corporate and commercial aircraft, for example.
“A private airport can certainly build it much quicker than a government-sponsored airport,” Perry said, “You do have to go through the FAA for things like approaches, getting into the airspace, getting onto the airspace system. Something like that would be close to (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport) and close to us… they would want to see how the air traffic flows. That’s probably the biggest deal with the FAA is to make sure your air traffic flows with other airports.”
Each city and county also have their own regulations that can vary widely and impact the length of time it takes to build a new airport, Perry said. For example, Austin Executive Airport took four and a half years to get through the process, while the airport Perry runs in Waller County took 18 months from start to open, he said.
Tesla’s property in Austin is already close to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, which Musk regularly touts, including when he first announced the company would be building a manufacturing facility in southeastern Travis County. Late last year Tesla moved its headquarters to the same site and even successfully petitioned to rename the road the facility is on Tesla Road.
A potential airport in Bastrop County would be close to another of Musk’s other business interests, his tunneling, and infrastructure firm the Boring Company, which has a manufacturing site and warehouse facility where it plans to test its tunneling equipment. The company also has commercial space in Pflugerville where the company moved its headquarters.
Musk, who flies regularly, confirmed that he moved to Texas in 2020 to be closer to SpaceX’s South Texas facility and the Tesla facility in Austin. The billionaire has also moved a number of his other companies into Central Texas including a potential SpaceX expansion somewhere in Austin, a Neuralink office and the headquarters of his private foundation, the Musk Foundation.
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‘Might not make financial sense’
While Musk says he has no plans to build a private airport, technology analysts say a step like that would not be out of character for the world’s richest person.
Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities said an airport for Musk and his companies could be a smart strategic move that would further incentivize his companies to build out in the region.
“Musk uses his plane as often as most people drink coffee in a week,” Ives said. “It’s a coup for Austin to have Tesla in their backyard and a private airport would be doubling down on keeping Musk in Austin for years to come despite some clear opposition to such a move.”
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said it seems unlikely Musk would build a private airport in Bastrop County. But if he did, the ownership likely wouldn’t be tied to Tesla or one of Musk’s other companies, he said.
“Companies don’t usually invest in airports, but wild and crazy billionaires might very well,” Kay said. “It would be helpful and even convenient, but it may or may not make financial sense. It’s like buying Twitter.”