Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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When Tom Cruise, Maroon Five, Ken Burns or any executive from corporate America flies into the Land of Enchantment in their Lear jet they have a hard time finding a private place to stay for themselves, their plane and its crew. The Sunport doesn’t have facilities for them, so visiting aviators with larger business jets have no rental hangar space available, and their planes end up exposed to the elements. Craig Cervantes is on a mission to provide movie stars, corporations and those that own smaller aircraft with a place to house themselves and their planes in style on 130 acres zoned for aviation development at the end of the runway at Double Eagle II Airport on the Westside of Albuquerque.

“I guess you could say I’m a little bit of a visionary,” Cervantes told us at The Paper. As CEO of his company, La Mancha, he plans to build Cibola Aviation Business Park, which would be an aviation Disneyland at the end of the airport’s runway for aircraft owners and their crews to work out any jet lag they might have acquired along the way in style. Cervantes has 35 years of aviation experience in the United States Air Force and as a private pilot. A top-rated FAA Airframe & Powerplant license with Inspector Authorization (basically a high-end aircraft mechanic’s license) gives him further background for such a venture. As CEO of Global Aerial Surveillance Inc. and Specter Aerospace, Inc. he was involved in the development of large-scale military UAV systems.

Cervantes says Cibola Aviation Business Park will be unique to the United States. “This is something that has never been done before, something that’s never been done anywhere in the country,” Cervantes said. “We have a lot of movie media, businesses and movie producers coming out here. And what they are doing is all aviation-based. However, we have no infrastructure set up for them. After landing at the Sunport, there are no hangar facilities there for their private planes.”

Cervantes says he plans to build the aviation park on a 130-acre plot of land that was once slated for development by Eclipse Aviation. The City of Albuquerque Aviation Dept. confirms that the land is private and could be developed.

Cervantes contends the aviation park will bring a lot of money into the Albuquerque area. “I’ll be bringing in $50 million of development dollars from outside New Mexico.” Once the aviation park is up and developed, it’s going to be basically a destination place. It’ll be a Disneyland for aviators; a place to house their aircraft and themselves and buy the lowest fuel prices in the state,” Cervantes explained.

The project is projected to bring in nearly 100 million dollars to the state and city for the build out and 1,000-plus jobs, both directly and indirectly. “Movie industry and corporate executive hangers is a feature that no other major city can offer,” Cervantes said. “There is a potential for millions of dollars in increased tax revenue to the city and state.”

The park will be one of the most ambitious industrial aircraft parks built in the USA. “The average person thinks there are hangers everywhere. No, there’s not,” Cervantes said. “It may take six months, eight months, or possibly a little bit longer for the investment money to come in, and we’ve got it all ready to go and start building.” La Mancha plans to develop eight large 200’ x 200’ individual hangars for airport growth and eight smaller 100’ x 100’ fixed base operation, general aviation business hangars. There will also be enclosed T hangars to house 100 light aircraft.

The aviation park will also have 16 premium, large-size executive hangars to house larger business-class aircraft with 10,000 square feet of living space, kitchen and entertainment areas. Luxury crew and owner’s quarters will be above that. Cervantes also plans to build out 58 premium, medium-size executive hangars to house smaller business-class aircraft with luxury crew quarters. The aviation park will also offer a fine dining, high-end steak restaurant and a flight line café/restaurant open 24/7 that can service the airport and surrounding areas.

Cervantes promises two restaurants. One will be like Twin Peaks or Hooters, called the Dogfighter Cafe, with an aviation theme that will look like a World War II hangar. All the memorabilia and decor will be based upon fighter aircraft from World War I through modern times from all different countries. “We want to have the longest one-way bar in the world where we have at least 100 beers on tap and one of the bars looks like a big runway.” The cafe will be open 24/7 to support aircrews coming in and out at all different hours and staff will wear a ‘40s military “pinup type” outfit.

The other restaurant will be a high-end steak restaurant, where they serve aged beef sourced from northern New Mexico that has been bred for over 120 years in that area. “We’re in partnership with the ranch itself and the aged, all grass-fed, hormone-free beef will be available to local and regional markets as well,” Cervantes said. “We’re trying to keep it from New Mexico as far as the sourcing goes for the restaurants.”

A Gulfstream V, known as a “G-five,” is the largest type of aircraft that can currently land at Double Eagle II. “The city has been wanting to do an expansion on the runway; but it was unable to justify it, because there’s nobody landing at the Double Eagle airport. Now this would justify the FAA spending money and doing everything else it takes to actually extend the runways to what they originally wanted to do,” Cervantes said. “I’m going to bring a lot of aviation back into New Mexico, because it’s a substantial aviation infrastructure project.”

So what’s the price tag on a project like this? According to Cervantes’ website, the initial cost of development is between $50 million to $70 million. Cervantes says he needs investors to get anywhere near that number.

Albuquerque has virtually no infrastructure for the small-aviation industry. There are over 1,200 privately owned aircraft registered in the Albuquerque area, and that’s growing. Yet, there is very little available hangar space to store them with a very long waiting list. While it may seem fantastical, with proper infrastructure, Cervantes believes many industries will look at it as favorable to relocate to the Albuquerque area.

Cervantes can be contacted at craig@lamanchainc.com

Written by

Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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