Dianna Stanger opened her new airport in Texas on a bet.
“It actually started out as a bet,” she said. “My husband has his own golf course, Wolf Point Club, and I’m not a golfer at all, but he wanted to make our primary residence at the golf course because he was there every day. Our house was about seven miles away. It had a helicopter hangar and some grass strips. The only way I would concede was if he built me a runway.”
“It worked out well for me,” she added with a slight laugh.
The new airport in Port Lavaca is named Shank ’n Bank (08TS). While puzzling to most people, it makes perfect sense to Stanger.
“In golf when you take a bad hit it’s a shank. And for airports the natural pattern is going to have you banking. So I just made it Shank ‘n Bank,” she explained.
The dream of having her own airport has been with Stanger since she began flying in 1992.
“Aviation became something that I got involved with later in life from doing air racing to doing the helicopter rides for women,” she said. “Running the local airport, it just became something that became so ingrained that to not be a part of it wasn’t going to be natural for me. It wasn’t.”
In 2008, Stanger began managing Calhoun Air Center at Calhoun County Airport (KPKV) in Port Lavaca, Texas, her home airport at the time. In just six months, the airport had improved so much that it won awards. KPKV became a hotspot for community engagement and reaching out to area kids to get them involved in aviation. That’s something she wants to continue at her new airport.
“The Calhoun Air Center was a stepping stone,” she said. “Managing that airport gave me a good understanding of what is needed in the local area. Hopefully, I can fulfill a need.”
First things first
In planning the new airport, Stanger’s first call was to her insurance company.
“I fly a lot of different aircraft, so I had to make sure that what I was going to build was going to be able to take every aircraft and still be insured,” she said.
That’s why the 5,000’ runway is built to Texas Department of Transportation specs, she noted.
“I hired an engineering firm that just does airports and we built it just as you would any other 5,000’ GA airport,” she explained. “The runway has the same landing weight and it’s 75’ wide. It’s all engineered and built just as if it was a public airport.”
While it’s a private airport, Shank ’n Bank is open to the public.
“In fact, we’re changing the status,” she said. “It was issued as private, but it’s going to be public privately owned.”
While it’s open to the public, pilots wanting to fly in still need to make a request to land there, she noted.
“That way I can make sure that they’re taken care of when they do land,” she said.
The best way to alert her that you’re going to land is to call 361-893-5115.
Shank ’n Bank boasts a new hangar, as well as fuel.
But perhaps its greatest amenity is its location on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
“The Gulf Coast of Texas is pretty neat,” Stanger said. “We are located right next to the best duck hunting and seasonal fishing that there is. And of course the fact that the private golf course is right there. How often do you get the chance to play on a golf course that’s rated one of the top 10 in North America and nobody else is on it?”
What did Stanger learn by building her own airport?
“Hire the best,” she said unequivocally. “If you don’t hire the best you’ll be going back and spending three times as much fixing it. So, hire the best. And I did.”
She points to the 25,000-square-foot hangar. Instead of a metal building that would time out in about 10 years on the Gulf Coast, they built a wall construction hangar, which will last much longer.
Hiring the best is often a hard thing for people to accept, because it costs a lot of money to hire the best engineers, she added.
“But it saves you so much,” she said.
Paying it forward
Now that her airport is up and running, Stanger hopes to continue on with education and community programs, similar to the ones she had at Calhoun Air Center.
“We started it off with the grand opening we had on the weekend before Halloween,” she said. “I have some friends who are well known air show performers — Debby Rihn-Harvey and Vicky Benzing and Kate Tyre. Of course any time you watch those women perform you can’t help but get excited and want to become a pilot.”
The air show/fly-in attracted a good crowd from the local community.
“We had a blast just giving kids rides, exposing them to all the pilots and the different aircraft. Because the strip is what it is, I got a couple military jets that came in. I had some PC-12s, so the kids got exposed to every size aircraft and they got to meet so many pilots.”
She noted she intends to keep that community involvement up, including as many open events for kids as she can during the year.
“We want to give rides and just keep our youth growing up with aviation in their heads.”