Aviation Dayby Mary Clymer on August 18, 2020
Celebrating Flight in Renton
National Aviation Day is August 19th. Chosen because it is the birthdate of Orville Wright. The younger of the two Wright Brothers and aviation Pioneers.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the proclamation in 1939. This means the Renton Municipal Airport has been around longer than the nationally observed day.
Aviation Roots for almost 100 years
A Seaplane base for mail and goods coming in and out of the area. Running on a dirt and sod field runway until The Boeing Company got here in 1941. In an instant, the Airport boomed along with the popularity of aviation.
“If this runway could talk… This airport is incredible, and has a rich history, and has been paramount in the development of the aviation industry.” Says Jason Anderson, Interim Airport Manager.
In the hour we had to chat it was clear that Jason’s knowledge and love for aviation play a huge role in the success of how the airport is run today.
Renton really was ahead of the Aviation Boom. With the location of the runway along the Cedar, opening out into Lake Washington, it provides a truly unique opportunity for Seaplanes. Jason told me how instrumental Seaplanes have been in the development of our airport. How Renton remains one of the only airports that give the option of floaters. So you can land dry and take off wet or land wet and take-off drive.
The Renton Boeing Connection
With Boeing's arrival came work and growth that continue to this day. Housing projects, a fire station, and a hospital were built and B-29’s went into production. In 1947, the City of Renton bought the Airport from the federal government for just $1. Just six short years after Boeing arrived. Years that accounted for major growth within our city walls.
The Airport remains in the hands of the city to this day. Although it is clear that Boeing remains a major stakeholder in the day-to-day flow.
Currently, there are roughly 400 planes that have been manufactured and sold waiting to be delivered. Every 737 built takes its maiden journey off the runway here in Renton. From here the aircraft is sent either to Everett or Boeing Field. Occasionally a Boeing jet may fly into the Airport for special care, but this is rare.
Forecast for the Future
However, the Renton Airport isn’t set up for the landing of these commercial jets. In recent years this has become quite a subject of discussion. I asked Jason if he had any information about what was going on with the potential growth of the airport. He was pleased to speak about it, saying that there is a lot of misinformation out there.
The Airport is in the middle of developing a master plan that accounts for growth. The FAA’s most recent forecast indicated that the airport needed a more expanded fall out zone. A zone that protects the surrounding area should something go wrong. The options were either to grow North into the water, or South onto Airport way.
After meeting with community members, airport stakeholders, Boeing, and the FAA, it was decided to pause this discussion. The hope is to re-evaluate the projected forecast in an attempt to create very little impact and change. This sounds like one of the only things everyone involved can agree on.
Airport Advisory Committee
Currently, Boeing is addressing some housecleaning issues on top of COVID. This gives the Airport time to figure out the details. There is of course an Airport Advisory Committee that meets regularly. This Committee is so important because the neighborhoods surrounding the airport get a voice at the table. In fact, in order to be eligible for one of the neighborhood seats, you cannot have aviation experience. This is to ensure that the two sides (aviation and community) have an equal voice. Helping one to see and understand the needs of the other. These positions come up regularly and an application can be found on the city website here. These meetings are open to the public. Zoom links are available on both the airport and city website calendars.
Growing up in Renton we all had a connection to aviation. It’s at the heart of our city. But most have never considered jumping into flight. Yet there are so many opportunities right here.
Associated with the airport is the Civil Air Patrol. A group helping individuals get involved with aviation. ACE Aviation is an aircraft maintenance and repair shop. They also specialize in installing floats on planes.
Services that range from flight training, plane rentals, and even help you with transportation to and from your flight are here too.
Featured below are some of the great flight based opportunities currently available at the Renton Municipal Airport.
Rainier Flight Services host many programs where one can learn to fly. They have a great program through Green River Community College and the Horizon Pathways Program. Both setting aspiring pilots up for success in the commercial flight industry.
ATP Flight School is a nationwide program. The Renton Airport is one of 47 training centers where you can learn to fly through their airline career fight program.
Pro-Flight Aviation offers Flight School as well as Aircraft rentals or those who already have a license. Evergreen Flight Club another great option for licensed pilots looking to stay in touch with other pilots. They review all the ins and outs of taking off and landing at a variety of airports.
Scholarships For Locals
BEFA, The Boeing Company’s aviation program, provides opportunities for employees looking to learn to fly. In addition, they are entering their third-year partnership with the Renton School District. Offering Scholarships to students at all of our High Schools for a 60-hour program to be a certified FAA private pilot. Earning them both high school and college credit. These Scholarships are free and only offered to local students.
Harium Martin-Morris, Boeing Employees’ Flying Association Board Secretary, and a member of the Washington State Board of Education, helped create this program that runs through Renton Technical College. In our phone conversation, he said, “The idea is to work on getting young people involved in general aviation.” And it’s working! So good in fact that one of the first-year students just passed his written exam to become a pilot. Harium went on to tell me that they are building up to including flight training in addition to what is currently being offered.
Sound interesting to you? The program runs in the Spring and is labor-intensive. Meeting twice a week after school. All students interested in a career in aviation are encouraged to apply. Although there is a focus on getting women and people of color involved. Talk to your students’ council or the CTE department for more information.
Renton Airport is a part of the Fly Washington Passport Program. A program where pilots receive stamps at all the airports they visit. Collect them all and win a prize.
The Future of Aviation in Renton is Bright
Jason seems very positive about the inner workings of our piece in aviation history. He reminds me that this airport has been through a lot. Two world wars, mass production, and lay-offs, and is clearly a huge piece of our city’s roots. He hopes that the airport continues to be looked at as an asset to our community. Big changes are inevitable, and the future will continue to bring commerce into our area. On top of the 13.8 Billion dollar impact that the 737’s alone drive through the airport. Aviation is here to stay, and the future is bright at the Renton Municipal Airport.
What stories do you have about our airport? Do you hold a piece of Renton history or have some valuable information about the development of this airport you’d like to share? Contact us.
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