Flight Museum to House Moses Lake Hangar

By Tiffany Sukola, January 16, 2013, Columbia Basin Herald

Many buildings at the Grant County International Airport have undergone renovations over the years, but one building remained the same.

Until now.

A Quonset hut built in 1942 has stood on the property while it went through some major changes, including two name changes and a much-needed face lift, but it is currently being disassembled to make way for runway renovations.

The structure is making its way to a new home. Port of Moses Lake officials recently announced an Everett-based aviation museum is purchasing the structure.

Pat Jones, Port of Moses Lake executive director, said the Historic Flight Foundation already started to disassembling the Quonset hut. The structure should be taken down by next month.

Although the structure had many uses during the years, it was most recently used as a storage facility for port maintenance equipment and vehicles, Jones said.

The removal of the Quonset hut is part of the port’s hangar redevelopment project, he said.

The building is adjacent to Hangar 2, and the port needs a wider turning radius for planes to get into the hangar.

Once the structure is removed in the coming weeks, the port will begin to make improvements to the runway’s concrete foundation, he said.

Jones said port officials are glad the Quonset hut is being restored rather than turned into scrap metal.

“It was important to the port commissioners that if possible, we found a reuse for the building because all of us here understand and appreciate its historical significance,” he said.

Jones contacted several aviation museums in the region, and the Historic Flight Foundation responded with interest in the old structure, he said.

“It was just our luck and kind of a miracle that they understood its value and had a use for it,” he said. “We here at the port think it’s terrific that the Quonset hut will be reused and re-purposed in a way that keeps it connected to the aviation community and its own history.”

John Sessions, founder of the Historic Flight Foundation, said hearing the Moses Lake port had a historic structure it was trying to find a new home for was also a lucky break for the museum.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” Sessions said. “We’ve outgrown the space that we have at Paine Field and we have three rather large aircraft that we operate and need to find a suitable hangar for.”

Sessions said the foundation was interested in the hangar because it was built in 1942, which falls within the era of flight history the museum highlights.

“Our period of history is from 1927 to 1957,” said Sessions. “(Charles) Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in 1927 and 1957 marked the transition to jet air travel, so this was just perfect.”

The hangar will be disassembled and stored near Moses Lake for a few months while the museum finishes negotiating a lease with the airport in Everett and getting permits from Snohomish County for more space at Paine Field.

The new hangar will house planes from the foundation’s collection, in addition to several classrooms and storage for parts and materials once completed. Sessions anticipates the hangar to be erected in the summer, he said. The foundation is currently working on the hangar’s design.

“When it was erected in 1942, it was designed so you could drive a plane in one end and out the other, and it still has hardware for what would be a huge curtain,” he said.

Sessions said the foundation board is debating whether to reconstruct the hangar as it was originally built, or to add glass on one end of the hangar for visitors to be able to see through to the runway on the other side.

Sessions said the foundation is excited to be able to bring the hangar to the West side of the state. The hangar is a Butler hangar, he said, a favorite of the U.S. Army during World War II.

Although they were built as temporary hangars, Sessions said the structures were extremely sturdy.

Between base closures and airports demolishing the hangars to make way for modern renovations, Sessions said not too many have survived.

“It’s a good find for us,” he said. “We’re able to move the important components over and create something that will last another 70 years.”

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