Dallas has a funny way of easing neighbors' concerns about the Dallas Executive Airport. Just as nearby homeowners have worked themselves up into a minor frenzy because City Hall has kept them in the dark about a runway extension to accommodate heavier and louder aircraft, the city surprises them with news that DEA will be permanent home to a large vintage air show.
More accurately, the city would have surprised them with the 10:30 press conference this morning, had they not gotten their hands on the embargoed press release announcing the relocation to DEA of the Commemorative Air Force, a Midland-based group that restores WWII-era aircraft and puts on a touring air show. CAF's arrival has been a topic of discussion on the Neighbors of DEA Facebook page since last week.
Timing aside -- and the CAF move was in the works well before neighbors knew they should be outraged -- neighbors are greeting the announcement with a cautious shrug. They remain more concerned by City Hall's general lack of transparency regarding development at DEA than with the prospect of an occasional air show. (This is presumably why Midland-Odessa's CBS 7 turns to a Facebook post by serial commenter Wylie H to stress neighbors' opposition, apparently unaware that Wylie does not exist as a corporeal being.)
Raymond Crawford, the DEA neighbor/citizen activist who's been most outspoken on the airport, isn't overly concerned by the CAF. He is, however, quite amused that the city is spurring economic development in southern Dallas by inviting a group that, until 2002, was named the Confederate Air Force.
The Confederacy, which dissolved a half century before the airplane was invented, didn't have an Air Force, of course. The name was tongue-in-cheek, derived from the legend someone long ago painted on the fuselage of a P-51 as a joke. It stayed a joke (the patches on their flight jackets read "This is a CAF aviator. If found lost or unconscious, please hide him from Yankees, revive him with mint julep and assist him in returning to friendly territory.") until the organization decided that neither the public nor potential donors appreciated the joke.
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The city and CAF have been mum on details (including what economic incentives are on the table), saying only that the move will include the group's headquarters and corporate offices, a "major new visitor attraction," and, since DEA will become CAF's new national airbase, at least a portion of the group's fleet of 160 or so old war planes.
It's no doubt a significant coup for the long-beleaguered DEA. According to Dallas CIty Councilman Tennell Atkins, it will also be an economic boon to the area, who told The Dallas Morning News it will create "more restaurants, more hotels and more action."
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.