Fast Focus 'Future of Vista Field:' Convenient to mall

February 24, 2013 

I am a pilot who has found Vista Field the easiest way to get to the mall next to Vista Field. I have bought household fixtures there, gone there for meals on occasion and just gone there to take someone to the mall for ladies' shopping. I will probably be there in the next two weeks again.

-- LYNN BUCHANAN, Yakima

Already settled

If the port had gone forward with the Vista Field Master Plan which was adopted February 2011, we would not be having this discussion. The private sector took the port at its word and proceeded forward, spending millions of dollars based on the unanimous decision the commissioners made in March of 2010 -- which I was a part of -- to keep Vista Field open. Then they adopted the Master Plan in 2011 and instructed Tim Arntzen, executive director, to take all steps needed to carry out the master plan. I personally talked with the port about building hangers in March, 2012 with private funds and was told that the port would be going out for a Request for Proposals in May 2012.

If the port had tried to market Vista Field and had shown the public that they had intentions of making it a viable airport, then people would have come forward to build at Vista Field. I am aware of others who expressed interest in building at the airport but questioned whether the port really intended on keeping the airport open and if the port would be someone they wanted to do business with.

The port needs to stand by its commitments and proceed with the Vista Field Master Plan.

-- DAVID HANSON Kennewick

See the future

Unlike many of the most vocal supporters of keeping the airfield open, I live and pay taxes in the Port of Kennewick District. I have two questions:

First: Does your vision of this area 10, 15 or 20 years from now include an airfield in that location? Mine does not.

Second: Is the land occupied by the airfield at Vista Field more valuable developed for the region's retail, professional and entertainment center or as a place to land a few airplanes?

Please, let's get on with closing the airfield and making the land available for development.

-- KIRK WILLIAMSON, Kennewick

Enjoyable stop

I fly to Vista Field several times a year. My friends and I were there last Saturday. We walked to the Texas restaurant and ate lunch. We enjoy aviation, and Vista Field is an enjoyable stop. It offers restaurants, the mall, the Toyota Center and many other places all within walking distance. Pasco and Richland do not offer those. You will need a car to travel in those cities, where you can walk to everything in Kennewick.

We would like to see Vista remain a viable airport with continued development. Aviation is just as important to quality of life in a community as pools, golf course, parks, houses, hospitals, businesses, malls, and walking trails. Remember, once an airport is closed, it is forever gone.

-- MIKE BULL, Yakima

Endangered species

I operate an aviation company with locations in Seattle and Las Vegas. We work with several clients providing aviation services in and out of Vista Field. This access allows our clients to operate more efficiently and have direct access to and from Kennewick. Many of our clients live and locate their businesses in Kennewick because of the access to Vista Field. We have seen an increase in our flights into and out of Vista Field each of the past four years.

Airports are a finite resource and they are an endangered species. When an airport closes, it is lost forever and with it the economic benefits that it provides now -- or ever would have provided in the future.

I strongly encourage you to keep Vista Field open now and for the future.

-- LUKE LYSEN, The Flight Academy

Port's obligation

Through resolution, the Port of Kennewick adopted the 2011 Master Plan for Vista Field. So the port has a duty and an obligation to develop the airport. The port, however, did not accomplish any of the plan's milestones. It appears now to use this new study to hide mismanagement or to conceal conspiracy.

Relying upon the port's resolution, private businesses have invested millions of dollars in business infrastructure attached to the airport, because of the airport.

At the Draft EIS meeting, the last presenter was the manager of Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute (PCLI). He talked about the importance of an airport to the community and the importance of the airport to his regional business model. PCLI's beautiful new location is attached to Vista Field because of the airport. PCLI's other regional locations are located at airports because of direct access. Again, airports are key to PCLI's successful business model.

Cadwell Labs, the 100+ manufacturing jobs and the recent expansion project should be celebrated, not lambasted. Carl Cadwell spoke about the many reasons why an airport location is important to the success of Cadwell Labs.

High-paying jobs are located in Kennewick because of Vista Field airport. Don't send them packing.

-- CARL HOLDER, Richland

Valuable to community

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is a not-for-profit membership association of almost 400,000 pilots and aircraft owners nationwide including more than 11,500 members in the state of Washington. On behalf of our members, AOPA is committed to ensuring the future viability and economic development of general aviation airports.

Vista Field is one of those general aviation airports for which AOPA fights. The state of Washington believes it to be important enough to be included in the State Aviation System Plan as a Community Service airport. It is only due to being close to two other airports within the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) that it is excluded from recognition by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as being a critical part of the national air transportation system.

The airport provides an important benefit to the entire community, not just the pilots and aircraft owners on the field. And it is important to note that those airport users pay their way through leases and taxes on the aircraft and fuel, which support operations at the airport. Unfortunately, the taxes paid to the state are not 100 percent dedicated to aviation use. Non-aviation uses take 90 percent of the taxes paid, leaving very little to spend on local airports like Vista Field.

Vista Field is an important piece of a statewide transportation infrastructure that currently contributes to the economic benefit of the community and has the potential to contribute even more. The port should continue to exert all efforts to move forward with the 2011 Airport Master Plan and not be so quick to throw in the towel.

-- JOHN L. COLLINS, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

Unique location

Vista Field is in a location which provides easy access to the Tri-City commercial hub for general aviation. Few cities ever have the chance or opportunity to be able to give itself an airport in a downtown location.

While the airport is close to the business district along Columbia Center Blvd. and Canal Drive, it is not part of those retail enterprises that shoppers frequent. None of the extensive vacant land around the airport contains any retail enterprises that sell normal or common retail items. If one were to contemplate building a business for the shopping public, would not the developing Southridge area be more positive because of the land availability, new hospital and the growing housing that is occurring at this time.

If one is to make an estimate of the kind of businesses that would populate this former airport area, look at the businesses that are between the runway and the railroad tracks. This is not the concept featured in the DPZ Vista Field Planning, Environment and Economic analysis, but it is a fourth possible alternative.

Again, having an airport in a downtown location is a rarity that few cities can realize.

-- EDWARD, KEENAN, Kennewick

Who benefits?

Whether Vista Field stays open or closes has no direct impact on me, which offers me the opportunity for an objective view of the situation. To me, it appears that for the past several years, the Port pf Kennewick has been planning for a closure while it "shopped" for study results that would justify the planned closure. Claims by the port that costs to improve the field are too high seem weak when, in truth, the costs of the multiple studies would have offset those capital improvement costs. When Dr. Shannon submitted an operational proposal to the port, his figures were misrepresented by port officials. So when trying to decide what the truth is, I am left with the old adage, "who benefits?"

Who does benefit from the closing? Clearly the port benefits by closing what they see as a "white elephant" operation and gains an enormous cash influx from the sale of property. The city of Kennewick benefits from expected increases in sales tax. Benton County benefits by increased property taxes. KID benefits, as they own adjoining property which will increase in value, although I suspect none of this additional income will benefit ratepayers. Developers will benefit, as they always do, by the sale of property developed at the expense of the port, ostensibly from the proceeds from prospective property sale. Builders will benefit from profits gained from contracts secured. The Tri-City Herald will benefit from increased business ads and residential subscriptions. Makes me wonder how objective these parties can be.

Who does not profit? Well, there will certainly be an increased traffic flow around the area. Columbia Center Blvd., Clearwater, Deschutes Ave. and Grandridge Blvd. will most certainly become harder to navigate. And the proposed development includes multiple residential units, which means another request from the Kennewick School District for another bond measure to increase classrooms due to additional students. Additionally, what of the unfunded improvement costs related to closing and development costs incurred by the port and city?

Promises by politicians and bureaucrats seem to have little merit once the deed has been done. So I, am highly skeptical, maybe even cynical about the "why and how" of closing Vista Field.

- JOHN PARKER, Kennewick

Fact or fiction

Why did the consultants not include the years between 1980 and 2004? Did someone conveniently not give this information to them? Vista Airport provided a gateway to this community during these years and was not a drain on the community as the Port of Kennewick suggests.

Kennewick Aircraft operated off of Vista Field in late 1979 in a shack across from where the new building would be built in 1981, Gil Mayfield had a 99-year lease on the airport and with investors built the FBO building. Kennewick Aircraft then moved into the new building and offered all the services that is expected of an FBO.

Before too long, pilots were flying in from all over Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon to go shopping and do business. Vista was now a destination.

The city owned the airport from the mid 70s to 1991, when it was purchased by the Port of Kennewick. Since then the port has done everything in its power to make sure Vista fails, and they have done it in a slow methodical, and some would say, "devious" way.

They first put Kennewick Aircraft out for Request for Proposal (RFP) which they had never done before, (our lease had lapsed while we, in good faith, were negotiating a new lease.) We wrote a proposal, and, although we had all the equipment in place and were already providing a full service FBO and were the high bid, the port still awarded the bid to Ben Tuttle, whose only experience was having a mechanic's license.

Within about a year or so the port rewrote Tuttle's lease (I read it) and included a clause that if there is any negative news about the future of the airport, the port would buy out Mr. Tuttle in the amount of $75,000. The clause also stated that Tuttle would not publicly voice any comments on Vista's closure then or in the future. Similarly, Mr. Musser and Gaunt were offered a large amount of money for their hangars, with the same stipulation as Tuttle.

Needless to say everyone took their money and left.

Now, except for Cadwell Labs, they have removed all of the big players, and makes it almost impossible for anyone, except for maybe Mr. Bill Gates to improve and operate the airport as the port stipulated in their lease. Well done, Port of Kennewick, mission accomplished!

I would like to thank the Port of Kennewick for its actions, as we, Kennewick Aircraft (DBA Sundance Aviation) are now at the Richland Airport where the Port of Benton realizes how important an airport is to the community. The Port of Benton has been so supportive to us. To quote Sally Field, "They love us. They really really love us."

-- SUZIE KELLY-DYER, Richland

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