Pierce County has big plans for the Tacoma Narrows Airport. And why not? When the county bought it from the City of Tacoma four years ago, it did so with a promise to focus more intensely on the airport than its previous owner.
The Tacoma Narrows Airport is Pierce County’s primary business jet facility. There are 150 aircraft based at the facility and about 61,000 takeoffs and landings each year.
As noted by many officials at Wednesday’s public information workshop regarding the Tacoma Narrows Airport Master Plan, the facility has a lot of potential in terms of greater use and the economic benefits it would bring (see our story on page A1).
Pierce County Airport and Ferry Administrator Deb Wallace pointed out two of the airport’s major assets during a Nov. 29 public affairs forum at Cottesmore of Life Care in Gig Harbor: location and financial health.
The Tacoma Narrows Airport is located five miles west of the central business district of Tacoma on the Gig Harbor Peninsula.
It’s true that the weakness of the general economy has seen activity at the airport decline to a fraction of the airport’s peak year of 1992, when 115,000 takeoffs and landings took place. Reflections at the Airport, the latest restaurant there, closed on Jan. 13 after a 16-month run. Pierce County aviation planner Warren Hendrickson has said the county will look for another restaurant tenant.
It’s also true, however, that the airport itself is in relatively good fiscal shape.
Those two factors — the airport’s prime location and the facility’s overall good economic health — bode well as the county begins work to update a master plan for the airport.
One of the major aspects of the plan that’s being considered is lengthening the runway by at least several hundred feet and perhaps as much as 1,000 feet. That extension would allow corporate jets to take off with a full fuel load.
Allowing fully fueled jets to depart would mean the aircraft would not have to stop on cross-country trips, thus making the Tacoma Narrows Airport more competitive.
And a more competitive airport is just what the county needs in advance of the many corporate visitors who will arrive to attend the U.S. Open golf tournament in 2015 at the county’s Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.
But a more competitive airport, county officials stressed, does not mean the airport will become a departure point for airline flights.
However, we were surprised during the course of some research to find out that the Tacoma Narrows Airport has briefly hosted commercial service several times in the past.
Residents near the airport who are concerned about jumbo jets landing and taking off nearby can also take some comfort in the fact that the airport’s airspace is too congested thanks to its proximity to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Sea-Tac International Airport.
We’re glad to see the airport’s new administration and the changes it is planning for the future. The time is right to make a serious and well-thought-out effort to tap the airport’s potential.
The county’s efforts at getting and keeping the public involved in the master plan process also is something we’re glad to see. County officials have repeatedly stated that wide participation and collaboration with the public is key to a successful revision of the Tacoma Narrows Airport Master Plan, and from what we’ve seen so far, we believe the county is serious.
Last month’s open house was the first of five such planned events, among other methods of keeping the public involved and informed. For more information, visit www.piercecountywa.org/tacomanarrows.
Given the county’s detailed planning and its inclusion of the public every step of the way, we think there’s reason, despite the current malaise surrounding the local aviation business, to be optimistic about the future of the Tacoma Narrows Airport.