Cleared for Landing

By Mark Stayton, April 12, 2013, Go Skagit

The mighty P-51 Mustang, long-range bomber escort of World War II, heavily-armed A-1 Skyraider that found fame during conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and at least 11 other historic military aircraft may soon find their way to Skagit Regional Airport.

After 12 years at Bellingham International Airport, the Heritage Flight Museum recently bought a large hangar at the Port of Skagit’s airport while making plans for relocation. Paine Field Airport in Everett also is being considered, said Kate Simmons, director of programs at the museum.

Museum Executive Director Greg Anders said in a news release that the museum board of directors decided to buy the hangar at Skagit Regional because it was a ready-made building that fit the museum’s needs and was receiving a lot of interest.

Patsy Martin, executive director of the Port of Skagit, said the hangars formerly belonged to Via Jet, a jet service business on the south side of the airport’s runways.

“We love that they’re considering us, and we’re going to work with them to see if Skagit makes the most sense,” Martin said.

The museum was founded in 1996 by Apollo 8 astronaut Maj. General William Anders and features a collection of space artifacts and memorabilia to complement aircraft archives and the warbirds.

Simmons said when the museum moved into Bellingham International, the airport was more focused on general aviation and had far less commercial airline activity than it does today. She said the museum has since developed its collections and programs and outgrown its current location.

As a member of the Bellingham airport’s Master Planning Committee, Simmons said no new general aviation building is planned there in the next five years.

Alan Anders, director of operations and maintenance for the museum, said Skagit Regional’s rarely-found focus on general and corporate aviation, lack of residential encroachment and dual runways make it a good candidate for relocation.

“I think there’s some potential for us down there. It’s a good place to operate the aircraft we operate,” Anders said.

Simmons said Skagit’s proximity to Bellingham also would be convenient for the many staff and volunteers necessary to keep the museum aloft.

Simmons said the museum will be working on business plans for both Paine Field and Skagit Regional in the next four to six months before a decision is made.

The museum will be holding a fly-in and car show, “Props & Ponies” — featuring Mustangs and Mustangs of flying and driving application — Aug. 16 and 17 at Skagit Regional to introduce itself and try and gauge the community’s interest, Simmons said.

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