PORT ANGELES — After three years, it’s time to take down the vacancy sign at William R. Fairchild International Airport’s terminal building, Port of Port Angeles commissioners decided Tuesday.
They unanimously agreed to relocate the offices of Rite Bros. Aviation, already a port tenant, into about one-quarter of the terminal and move the company’s maintenance, repair and office facilities from two existing hangar buildings into three hangars that are used for port storage — and are closer to the terminal — by March 1.
The port will relocate its vehicles and equipment to the hangars now occupied by Rite Bros.
The move by Rite Bros., a charter flight service, is part of the long-term revitalization of the terminal and “perhaps something that will be a catalyst to capture that over time into an aviation center that would be even more meaningful,” Dan Gase, port real estate and business manager, told commissioners in presenting the plan.
“It’s a smart move on many fronts.”
Under the plan, the company’s hangar space will increase by 25 percent, and it will lease 22 percent of the terminal building.
Under a new 10-year lease with two five-year options, Rite Bros.’ lease payments initially will increase from the $2,322 a month the company now pays to $3,096 a month by Sept. 1, 2018.
A consumer-price-index adjustment will be applied every 12 months beginning Sept. 1, 2019.
Rite Bros. Aviation owner Jeff Well said after the presentation that the move will increase his company’s visibility and is the biggest change to Rite Bros. since it was founded in 1981.
“This gives us the opportunity to seek out other contracts and service opportunities,” he said.
Gase told port commissioners that limitations to existing space for the charter-flight service and aircraft fueling and maintenance company include work-area hangars that are too small to allow for business growth — and hangar access for customers that can be, well, a little discomfiting.
“The restroom facility, you need to walk through one of them to get to the hangar,” Gase told commissioners.
“This plan provides for removing some of those obsolescent items.”
Kenmore Air stopped air service to Fairchild on Nov. 14, 2014, leaving the terminal without an occupant and the port unable since then to attract a new airline.
Gase said if a new airline does start flight service, it would likely fly nine-passenger aircraft that would carry passengers processed by Rite Bros. staff who will already have a customer service area for the company’s charter air service.
“The proposed redesign would be advantageous for both [Rite Bros. Aviation] and a new airline enabling both to work closer together for the mutual benefit of all parties,” he said in his report to port commissioners.
“An added benefit of this relocation is the ability to serve our business jet customers with a level of service that they receive at other airports and expect to receive when visiting Port Angeles.”
The improvements will provide “a great enhancement to the terminal,” Port Commissioner Connie Beauvais said.
Terminal improvements will include the addition of a food-service business and removal of Transportation Security Administration check-in areas, opening those spaces for table seating for meal service and views of the runway.
A TSA area could be added later if need be, Gase said.
The port will pay for $50,000 in improvements including the addition of wall partitions, removal of the existing ticket counter and baggage conveyor belt, and the addition of windows to a wall in the TSA room that faces the runway.
“This will vastly improve visibility in and around the viewing areas and flight line,” Gase said in his report to port commissioners.
Rite Bros. will spend an estimated $40,000 to add a company sign to the terminal, build a reception counter and staff work areas, reconfigure the existing gift shop into office and student-training areas, and add a “coffee bar/refreshment center” for terminal customers.
Well told commissioners his business activity consists of 45 percent charter service, 25 percent for fuel services, 25 percent for maintenance services and 5 percent flight instruction.
He typically serves business customers who lately have included two regulars: the new owner of Armstrong Marine and a Bulletproof Coffee executive, both from Canada, Well said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].