Walla Walla Regional Airport – Walla Walla County, Washington State

January 2, 2023
Walla Walla Regional Airport - Walla Walla County, Washington State

Walla Walla Regional Airport

Opportunity takes off as upgrades are implemented

As the aviation industry leaves many of the traveling disruptions during COVID behind in the jet stream, regional airports across the country are seeing passenger numbers take flight. Walla Walla Regional Airport is no exception. With airport improvement projects in the pipeline and a staff dedicated to customer service, the flying public will be happy to touch down at Walla Walla Regional Airport.

“Walla Walla regional airport is located in the southeast corner of Washington,” explains Jennifer Skoglund, Airport Manager. “This is also Walla Walla County, and we have a population of about 60,000 people. It is a beautiful setting with the Blue Mountain National Forest to our east and we are known for excellent wines, we are known for being a foodie town, we have lots of agriculture and natural beauty and it is just a wonderful place to be.”

The area is among the finest wine regions in the United States, and as such has garnered a lot of attention in terms of tourism and natural growth in industries that complement it, such as restaurants. There are more than 120 wineries and 2,800 acres of grapes growing in and around the town.

“And when you arrive at the Walla Walla Regional Airport you will find a commercial airport, with several general aviation users, a flight school, and because of tourism, an additional influx of NetJets and other private, transitory, jet traffic,” she continues.

Walla Walla Regional Airport - Walla Walla County, Washington State

The airport itself was established in 1942 because of the Second World War. At that time, it was constructed by the Army Air Corps to be used as a training facility for B17 and B24 bombers. After the war, it was turned over to the community and has, since that time, continued to grow.

“It really blossomed,” explains Skoglund, “and through the years has had quite an impact on our community. Now we find that in working with so many partners, especially with Visit Walla Walla, with the chamber of commerce, and with our local wineries through an association called the Wine Alliance, to ensure that there are opportunities for those who want to work, play, or live here. We really see it as a partnership.”

Walla Walla Regional Airport covers an area of 2,319 acres and has an asphalt grooved runway: 2/20 measuring 6,527 by 150 feet. It serves both the General Aviation and Commercial Aviation public, being served by Alaska Airlines and their regional air carrier Horizon Airlines. They offer two flights daily to Seattle – although due to the pilot shortage that has been reduced to one flight a day.

The airport boasts a control tower that is open for 12 1/2 hours per day and in terms of statistics, 2021 saw 46,000 operations, some 970 of which were commercial. There are 105 aircraft based on the field, and an influx of private jet traffic, mainly due to tourism. It also has precision ILS systems as well as a taxiway system. The FBO which operates seven days a week is Gorge Aviation and offers 100LL Self-Service, Jet-A Delivery & Self-Serve, Aircraft Maintenance, Concierge Services, Rental Cars, and aircraft storage.

“This being an old Army Air Corps airport, we have a lot of old infrastructures,” Skoglund goes on to say, “and we have been making a concerted effort in terms of rehabilitation of our pavement first and foremost. So, the current project is an apron rehabilitation project which is a $14 million project. Once this is completed, we will still have one other apron section to complete. We get the funding from our FAA partners and then also an additional influx of federal COVID funds. For us the preservation and rehabilitation of pavement are key, “ she explains.

“The apron project will be seasonally finished in November of this year, but we are not going to be able to finish all of the phases before the weather becomes an issue, so they’re buttoning up at the end of this month and then next year they will come back and complete the final two work areas. By the end of 2026, we hope to have milled and overlaid all the 1942 concrete,” Skoglund outlines.

Walla Walla Regional Airport - Walla Walla County, Washington State

“We do have some additional projects that are in the queue,” she continues, “One of the important ones which is going to make a big difference to the pilots flying in and out of Walla Walla is a remodel and expansion of our FBO facility. Our FBO, George Aviation Services will operate out of the new facility, and it has just gone out for bids. This will modernize but also increase the footprint of the FBO building,” Skoglund adds.

It truly is an overhaul of the entire airport, and we are positioning ourselves positively with our tenants currently as well as making it desirable for future tenants – it’s just going to continue to open the door for future development and inviting business jets and the general aviation community as well as commercial aviation passengers to Walla Walla. We want to provide a good welcome mat into our community. There is a fourth project that will also have federal funding and that is a drainage and electrical project to help bring the runway up to current FAA standards,” she notes.

Walla Walla Regional Airport is unique in that it is not owned by the town, but by the Port Authority. In fact, the Walla Walla Port Authority functions as its own municipality, and it is within this framework that decisions are made as to what to do with airport property. There is considerable property, given the size of the original military base coupled with a large industrial park that has utilized many of the older military buildings with a diverse number of tenants. There are facilities ranging from wine-tasting rooms and distilleries to light industrial facilities, as well as retail locations. It is this business park that guarantees the financial self-sufficiency of the airport.

“With all of the improvements taking place, we are trying to focus our initiative on growth,” Skoglund concludes.

“We have a lot of property available for future development and I think a big part of what we have been about is the recognition that we have a very valuable asset here in our community. Knowing that we work at trying to position ourselves to continue to encourage people to come to Walla Walla and utilize our airport.”

Upon reflection Skoglund states, “We want to make the airport welcoming enough and easy enough that it helps lend itself to promoting the region. When we look at our business plan for the next few years it is all about ensuring that we are using our property and building the facilities here at the airport to ensure future success. There is a lot of opportunity for future growth and development here at the airport both on the aviation side and in our business park side so that really is the focus, making sure we’re providing this as an asset that can be utilized for the benefit our whole community.”

AT A GLANCE

Walla Walla Regional Airport

WHAT: a public airport run by the Walla Walla Port Authority

WHERE: Walla Walla County, Washington State

WEBSITE: https://www.wallawallaairport.com/

PREFERRED VENDORS

Visit Walla Walla – www.wallawalla.org

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