LYLE WILHELMI, Richland
Vista Field's decline started about 25 years ago with closure of the crosswind runway. At that time, airport security was nearly nonexistent with vandalism and hanger break-ins almost routine. Aircraft maintenance facilities were minimal. Then aircraft fuel service became irregular.
Once there, out-of- towners had no inexpensive transportation available for shopping or medical appointments. The field became a practice field primarily for student pilots who were practicing touch and go landings. There was no restaurant and not even a welcoming pilot's lounge with pilot supplies and flight planning facilities. Flight training activities were almost nonexistent. Except for a few aircraft owners in the Kennewick area, Vista Field held little attraction.
The death knell came with high fuel prices, which means airborne costs for fuel alone of $30 to $75 an hour. Even Richland airport with 125 aircraft became a quiet place. Recreational light plane flying has become a game only for the quite well-to-do, and even they are cutting back on the flying hours. If Vista Field is to get back in the airport game, someone must inject substantial amounts of money into the field.