SEQUIM — For Andy Sallee, Sequim Valley Airport’s manager and president, flying simply runs in the family.
His father and uncle, two brothers, his son and daughter-in-law are all pilots, and his daughter completed a solo flight last year.
The joy doesn’t leave, he said, not even after 13,000 hours in the skies over the past 40 years.
“You don’t get tired of it,” Sallee said. “The views are just so incredible.”
Three and a half decades ago, his parents, Jack and Winnie Sallee, bought 55 acres of prime Sequim earth and, seeing an opportunity for something special, created a privately owned, open-for-public-use airport in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains.
Now, more than 35 years removed from its inception, Sallee, his wife, Jane, and 26 other shareholders are ready for a new chapter as they put the community airport up for sale.
Many of the original investors are retired or have passed along their share to family members — including Sallee’s brothers — who are interested in cashing in their shares.
And while Sallee says he sees big potential for the property beyond what it is now — from visions of an event center and restaurant to aviation-related business facilities and corporate hangars — he’s nearing retirement and would rather be on the consulting side of the airport’s future than spearheading those projects.
“Whoever buys it has got to have that same vision,” Sallee said, “to keep it a community airport.”
Jack Sallee ran the airport and served as president until a forklift accident took his life in 1997.
Winnie took over as president until her death in 2009. During her time, the airport installed a taxiway and restored the road entrance. She also helped create an airport overlay district in cooperation with Clallam County in 2007 that creates additional protection of airspace around the airport and more flexibility in zoning.
With a long background in commercial flying, including piloting the large commercial 727s, Andy Sallee took over as president, assisted by his wife Jane, following his mother’s death.
Daniel Sallee has followed in the footsteps of his father Andy and uncles William and Joe with a career as a commercial pilot (and currently flies B-747s), while his wife Rachel pilots C-17s in the U.S. Air Force.
Andy and Jane’s daughter Elisa also soloed for the first time last year.
Though canceled this year because of COVID-19 restrictions, the event features antique plane exhibitions, a classic car show, hot air balloon and helicopter rides, remote control aircraft displays, aerial demonstrations, aviation crafts, music, food and more.
An estimated 3,500 people attended the seventh annual Air Affaire in 2019.
The airport also is home to two chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association, a group of pilots who host aviation programs, summer barbecues and scheduled fly-outs as well as the Young Eagles program, which welcomes youths ages 7-17 to aviation with introductory flights.
“(The airport) contributes quite a bit of the community,” airport board member Dave LeRoux said.
Sallee estimates there are 7,000 operations annually out of Sequim Valley Airport, in large part based on the unique location that doesn’t see much rain, wind or fog, and, as the airport boasts, features the driest climate of any public-use airport in Western Washington.
The airport, through a partnership with Wolf Industries, added a pair of “tiny house” cabin rentals in 2018 that can be reserved using Airbnb.
A short grass trail south links to the Olympic Discovery Trail. The Sallees have a set of bikes for visitors who want to pedal into town for the sights.
“We’ve got a really cool facility,” Sallee said. “We say our guests can fly in, bike in, or drive in.”
Sequim Valley Airport is overseen by an eight-person board of directors with varied aviation backgrounds. Andy and Jane Sallee own more than 70 percent of the corporation’s stock, with the remaining stock owned by 27 investors.
Revenues come from tie-downs, landing fees, fuel sales, hangar rental, association dues and airpark lot sales; the airport also operates with volunteer help.
Ideally, Sallee said, an investor or group would come in to take on the airport and develop amenities such as a restaurant, aviation industry, hangar expansion and/or additional commercial services, while the Sallees would be nearby to help out as needed.
“We think it’d be an awesome place for (more) events,” Andy said. “It all boils down to time and money.”
For more information about Sequim Valley Airport, or to inquire about purchasing it, see sequimvalleyairport.com.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].