By Kristi Pihl, August 21, 2013, Tri-City Herald
The recent closure of Vista Field Airport in Kennewick has helped spur demand for hangar space at the Port of Benton’s Richland Airport.
Two taxi lanes have been built at the Richland Airport to serve new hangars, but water and sewer will still need to be extended this year, Port of Benton commissioners were told Wednesday.
The taxi lanes were built on part of an undeveloped circle near other hangars in the northern part of the airport and near Butler Loop.
John Haakenson, the port’s director of airports and operations, said he’s had interest in new hangars from Vista Field tenants and others.
About 17 aircraft were based at Vista Field Airport when the Port of Kennewick decided to close the small general aviation airport earlier this year. Vista Field’s last day as an airport will be Dec. 31.
The Port of Benton already has about half of the available property leased from what the new taxi lanes opened up, and is working with potential tenants on the remaining portions, Haakenson said. He expects to have the leases complete by fall.
Those tenants may build around seven box hangars and a t-hangar that could fit up to 11 aircraft, he said.
The port will continue to own the land, but will enter into long-term leases with those interested in building and owning their own hangars, Haakenson said.
The remainder of the circle area that was once used as a landing spot for skydivers is grass, Haakenson said.
The extension of taxi lanes and utilities so that hangars can be built in the rest of the circle area can be broken down into phases that can be completed when there is both demand and funding, said Kimberly Silvester with J-U-B Engineers.
The type and number of hangars that will be built will depend on what builders propose and the airport can accommodate, she said.
The Federal Aviation Administration should have about $1.25 million for the port in 2016 to help pay for taxi lane improvements needed so more hangars could be built, Silvester said. The port will have to come up with funding for utility extension.
Silvester said they are looking for other funding, perhaps from the Washington state Department of Transportation or expiring FAA grants for other airports.
Haakenson said he thinks the port can accommodate demand for hangars with existing hangars and the most recent project until the FAA funding is available in 2016.
Having demand for more hangars then will help justify the need for the FAA dollars, he said.
Hangar owners say that space is fairly full, Haakenson said. But once new hangars are built, that should open up some room in existing hangars that can then be filled by those interested in basing their aircraft at the Richland Airport.