Just a few years after it was named Felts Field, Spokane’s first municipal airport was bragging about its great and swift business.
With more than $1.1 million in annual revenue in 1934, the airfield numerated its success: 55 people worked there full-time, including United Air Lines’ eight employees and Northwest Air Lines’ 16. It had 10 commercial hangars. More than 96,000 gallons of gasoline were sold there for aviation purposes.
The windfall for what was originally called the Parkwater airstrip was welcome, but probably not a surprise, as the airstrip was one of the West’s first airports officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
These were heady years. Charles Lindbergh had landed there in 1927 during his national tour flying his Spirit of St. Louis. In 1929, the airfield hosted Nick Mamer in the aircraft Spokane Sun-God, who flew continuously for 120 hours covering 7,200 miles between Spokane and New York and back again, refueling in midair in perilous situations that definitely wouldn’t be allowed now by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Despite these years of use and growth for the “aeroport,” which was first used for aviation purposes in 1913, commercial air traffic and the really big money that came with it shifted west after World War II, to Geiger Field, what we now call Spokane International Airport.
Few people think of Felts Field when we hear the words “Spokane airport,” but that’s exactly what it says on the Art Deco terminal there. Still, the little airport is anything but abandoned. Hobby pilots, commercial charter planes, the Experimental Aircraft Association still use the field every day.
The business isn’t swift and great anymore, but the aircraft still pose a danger to surrounding homes. As such, the Spokane Airport Board – which oversees Felts, the international airport and the Airport Business Park – recently recommended the purchase of a small piece of property just east of the airstrip that was on the market.
“We like to keep that area clear of improvements,” said Todd Woodard, spokesman for Spokane airports. “As properties become available there in our safety zone, we’d like to acquire them. It’s not the first. We’ve acquired a couple out there.”
The purchase was approved by the city and county of Spokane, which jointly own the airports. The city and county authorized the purchase of the vacant residence, 3904 N. Park Road, which is in the city of Spokane Valley.
The property is in the Valley’s Airport Overlay Zone 2, which is one of the most restrictive zones and prohibits the construction of single-family residences. The overlay zone was created in 2012 by the city in an effort to “reduce the potential for airport hazards.”
No more homes will be built, but there are dozens more houses left in the overlay zone, on Park, Edgerton and Center roads, as well as on South Riverway and Kiernan avenues. But Woodard said not to worry, the airport’s not coming for them any time soon.
“As properties become available and finances allow, the board will acquire other properties located in that zone,” he said.
Until then, neighbors should enjoy the small planes flying overhead and remember the celebrated past of Spokane aviation.
But for sanity’s sake, don’t think too much about the fate of James Buell Felts, who gave the airport its name. He was a graduate of Lewis and Clark High School and Washington State College, and publisher of the Spokane Valley Herald when his small craft crashed near the airstrip in 1927, killing him.
Costco roundabout impacts traffic
Construction of a two-lane roundabout intersection between Winchester and Farwell roads north of Spokane for access to the new Costco development is heavily impacting commutes.
U.S. Highway 2 is reduced to one lane in each direction. Motorists should be alert for slow traffic, especially during commute hours. Drivers need to be alert for trucks entering and exiting the roadway.
BNSF work hits Market and Greene
On Tuesday, crews will be working on the BNSF Railway overpass where Market Street turns into Greene Street. Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction and there will be a complete closure lasting about 30 minutes. Look for flaggers.
As an alternate route for traffic heading south on Market, head east on Euclid Avenue to Freya Street, take Freya to Upriver Drive, head west to the turn ramp south on Greene.
For traffic heading north on Greene, exit at Carlisle Avenue and head east to Ralph Street, take Ralph south to Upriver, head to Freya, then to Euclid and finally to Market.
Stormwater work comes to Peaceful Valley
Construction on the first phase of a combined sewer overflow project starts Monday.
The following streets will be closed: Cedar Street from Main to Water avenues; and Water from Cedar to Ash streets.
This project will be completed in two phases.
Adams Street work shifts
The Adams stormwater project continues to affect traffic.
First Avenue from Cedar to Jefferson streets will be closed starting May 14. Eastbound traffic will be detoured onto Riverside Avenue.
Sprague Avenue is closed to all westbound traffic from Jefferson to Cedar. Eastbound traffic is permitted on Sprague from Adams to Jefferson for local access only.
Riverside has reopened to two-way traffic.
The city warns that increased truck traffic will be in the area as crews begin tank backfill activities.
U-District ped bridge work blocks MLK
Martin Luther King Jr. Way is closed from Pine to Sherman streets as crews continue work on the University District Gateway Bridge. Riverside between Sheridan and Grant streets remains closed to through traffic.
Highway 2 between Davenport and Wilbur
Beginning Monday through May 16, motorists can expect single-lane, alternating traffic directed by flaggers along 20 miles of U.S. Highway 2 between Davenport and Wilbur. Pavement patch work will be done between 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. No work will be done Friday.