It took a year or two of work and a spirited election campaign to make way for it, but the Port of Kennewick finally has approved a master plan for Vista Field.
It's a major improvement over the uncertainty that plagued Vista Field for years, and a major step toward realizing the little airport's potential.
The valuable location adjacent to the commercial center of the Tri-Cities had been lusted after by city officials and commercial interests, not for what it was but for what it could be.
As Kennewick Councilman Steve Young put it, closing the airport would be so simple that all it would take was to "paint an X" at the end of the runway and it would be closed.
Then, let the developers roll.
The issue never was directly put to the voters.
But the campaign for one Port of Kennewick commission seat revolved almost exactly around it, and some Kennewick City Council seats did too.
The outcome was that Skip Novakovich, who opposed closing the airport, was elected to the port commission (he is now the board president). Some city council members were also defeated, and many believe the turnover was prompted, at least in part, by the airport issue.
With commission's unanimous decision to adopt the master plan, the port makes way for, among other projects:
w Construction of 60 more T-hangers for smaller planes over the next 10 years.
w Repairing rough runways and taxiways.
w Construction in about five years of a new main hanger and office for airport operations, to replace the deteriorating structure that is there now.
w Attracting a fixed-base operator -- in aviation jargon, a person to take charge of operations from refueling to rules enforcement to keeping the weeds cut.
w Extending taxiways to open up for use more areas already inside the airport boundary.
The updated plan is posted at www.portofkennewick.org.
The public may comment by calling the port at 586-1186 or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Consultants are uncertain what affect the new FAA sports category of aviation may have on airport operations.
Sport pilots learn to fly in half the time of regular pilots. Sports aircraft may carry only one or two people, must fly in good weather, daylight only, at relatively low speeds for airplanes.
Manufacturers of these planes, or of kits for home builders, could have implications for smaller airports, but reliable projections are hard to come by.
Even so, the airport's supporters predicted a steady increase in traffic at Vista Field, accompanied by an economic windfall for Kennewick, over the years to come.
Private interests will have to match the port's enthusiasm before the city sees improved commercial activities abutting the airport, as was promised during the various political campaigns.
Plans have been stalled at Vista Field for too long. It's time to get things going.