Felts Field is preparing for growth with several projects in the works, including relocating a fuel facility, adding a gateway feature to the airport’s entrance and constructing a new hangar to house the Historic Flight Foundation.
The $4 million aircraft display hangar – to be located in the Felts Field Historic District – will span 21,000 square feet with office space and a viewing mezzanine. The art deco-themed structure will also be home to the Historic Flight Foundation’s collection of rare aircraft from the 1920s to 1950s.
“We are putting a lot of effort to build the hangar to fit into the airport’s art deco theme,” said Larry Krauter, CEO of Spokane Airports. “We are trying to complement the Felts Field Historic District.”
The Historic Flight Foundation was founded in 2003 as the John T. Sessions Historic Aircraft Foundation. The foundation’s Mulkiteo, Washington center has a collection of more than 15 aircraft used in flight shows and movies. The center also includes a shop, lab and classroom to provide aviation-based STEM education.
“It’s a very open environment. You can walk right up to a plane, take a photograph and there’s no barriers,” said John Sessions, chairman of the Historic Flight Foundation.
Sessions said the foundation’s board looked at more than 25 airports for a potential second center before selecting Felts Field for its history and architecture.
“We went through proposals carefully and Felts Field looked like a great place to have a second location,” Sessions said. “It has a history and we’re all about history. It’s Spokane’s first airport. The architecture of the airport’s historic terminal building is almost art deco. It’s fabulous.”
Sessions said the new aircraft display hangar will be nice for the community and tourists. It will be open six days a week and could be a unique venue for dinner parties and events with the historic planes as a backdrop.
Sessions said the Historic Flight Foundation will continue STEM and aviation education with a number of programs for community colleges and schools in Spokane.
“It will really be the first facility of its kind at Felts Field,” Sessions said.
Felts Field is attracting more air traffic as a result of taxiway renovations, pavement repairs and public-private partnerships that have brought businesses to the airport, said Krauter.
Felts Field is also planning a $1.5 million fuel facility relocation project to replace its outdated underground fuel tanks. The project is funded through airport capital funds to meet the needs of increasing air traffic from business jets.
EFT, LLC – a corporation co-founded by Tim Gump, Fred Lopez and Ed Landsberg – built the $3.5 million Felts Field General Aviation Flight Center, which opened in 2016 and is home to fixed base operator Western Aviation, Honor Point Military and Aerospace Museum, and Northwest Flight School.
Gump, who is president of EFT and a shareholder of Western Aviation, has held property at the airport for more than 25 years.
Gump said he was encouraged to invest in property at the airport because Krauter initiated various improvements to Felts Field such as resurfacing Rutter Avenue, adding a new ramp and securing FAA grants to fund projects.
“I saw that and said, ‘I’ll put in a new building,’ ” Gump said. “Honor Point had been trying to launch for years and when we built the facility, we made the east hangar available to them with a mini parking lot.”
EFT also own hangars and leases space to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department, Inland Helicopters Flight School and the Northwest Flight School.
Gump said commercial businesses at the airport are driving growth as well.
“When you look at the flying community, it’s nice to fly into an airport with amenities and have it be pleasant,” he said. “There’s a lot of corporate aircraft that fly into Felts Field instead of Spokane International Airport. We’re getting a whole lot more corporate traffic and subsequently, we get other business.”
The airport board recently began development of the Felts Field master plan, which addresses opportunities for growth at the airport over the next 20 years.
“(The master plan) is a periodic requirement for the Federal Aviation Administration, but there certainly has been growth at Felts Field and that will be an influence on what happens in the process of developing the airport master plan,” said Krauter. “I think (Felts Field) presents itself as a very active general aviation airport.”
The airport board is conducting a Historic District Gateway study to take a detailed look at improving the area near Trent Avenue and Fancher Road that leads into the heart of the historic terminal area by adding landscaping and gateway signage to make it a nice approach into the airport, Krauter said.
“We will be studying that area to pull the identity of Felts Field outward, so people can realize it is there,” Krauter said.“There are a lot of things we are looking at doing to improve Felts Field to make it a destination for visitors and our residents.”
Construction on the bulk hangar will begin in late summer or early fall and be completed in twelve months. The fuel facility project is also expected to begin in early fall.
“I’m looking forward to (Felts Field) slowly getting better with more activities,” said Gump. “It makes Spokane a little bit of a nicer place. I’m very excited about the future improvements. They’ll probably take some time, but I believe it will be best for the community and the airport.”
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