Flight cen­ter plans

Ben­tonville air­port build­ing to in­clude restau­rant, ex­hibit space.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - MELISSA GUTE

BEN­TONVILLE — The mu­nic­i­pal air­port’s new flight cen­ter will in­clude ameni­ties de­signed to en­gage the pub­lic as well as the avi­a­tion com­mu­nity, ac­cord­ing to air­port and city of­fi­cials.

The two-story build­ing will house Sum­mit Avi­a­tion, the air­port’s fixed-base op­er­a­tor, and in­clude a restau­rant, ex­hibit hangar, meet­ing rooms and a re­tail space.

The cen­ter will be built on the air­port’s north­west cor­ner, just south of Lake Ben­tonville. Sum­mit Avi­a­tion op­er­ates on the air­port’s east side.

Plans for the build­ing and its grounds will go be­fore the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion to­day.

The 70-by-80-foot ex­hibit hangar will have three or four planes on dis­play at a time and will ro­tate air­craft pe­ri­od­i­cally “so it’s al­ways fresh,” said Chad Cox, with Run­way NWA, a civic and social or­ga­ni­za­tion in Ben­tonville work­ing on the cen­ter.

“A lot of avi­a­tion mu­se­ums are sort of static,” Cox said. “If you go there once, you’ve seen it.”

The Arkansas Air and Mil­i­tary Mu­seum at Drake Field in Fayet­teville is go­ing to launch a cap­i­tal cam­paign in the fall to raise money to ex­pand its ex­hibit space as well as pro­vide ro­tat­ing ex­hibits, ac­cord­ing to Rick Bai­ley, mu­seum pres­i­dent and mem­ber of the Fayet­teville air­port ad­vi­sory board.

It’s been six to eight years since any­thing new has been done with the ex­hibits inside, he said. The mu­seum board is work­ing with the Ninety-Nines, an in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion of women pilots, to cre­ate an ex­hibit rep­re­sent­ing women in avi­a­tion, Bai­ley said.

He said he hopes the mu­seum plays a role in get­ting more vis­i­tors to the air­port but also un­der­stands more peo­ple would likely re­turn if ex­hibits were added or changed. About 12,000 to 15,000 peo­ple visit the mu­seum an­nu­ally.

Ben­tonville’s ex­hibit hangar will be on the flight cen­ter’s west side. Large win­dows will al­low those trav­el­ing on South­west I Street, ei­ther by ve­hi­cle on the road or as a pedes­trian or cy­clist on the trail, to see the planes inside.

The restau­rant, a Ropeswing Hos­pi­tal­ity Group project, will pro­vide of­fer­ings for fam­i­lies, Cox said. There will be in­door and out­door seat­ing, most of which will be out­door on the air­field side on the ground level.

Its name will be Louise, in honor of Louise McPhetridge Thaden, an ac­com­plished fe­male avi­a­tor in the 1920s and 1930s. She was a Ben­tonville na­tive. The mu­nic­i­pal air­port also is named after her.

The Spring­dale Mu­nic­i­pal Air­port has had a restau­rant for at least 20 years, ac­cord­ing to James Smith, air­port fa­cil­i­ties man­ager.

“It makes the com­mu­nity aware that there’s an air­port,” he said. “Any pub­lic­ity you can get for an air­port is great.”

Bill Adams, has op­er­ated the restau­rant for the last three to four years. He re­cently re­mod­eled and changed the name from Flaps Down Grill to Woodie’s Land­ing, which opened in the last four to six weeks, Smith said.

“Pilots will fly in, have lunch and fly out,” Smith said, adding mem­bers of the gen­eral pub­lic pa­tron­ize the restau­rant, as well.

The Ben­tonville flight cen­ter will have two con­fer­ence rooms on the sec­ond floor for rent by any­one and can be catered by the restau­rant, Cox said.

“You’re go­ing to have an awe­some view of the lake and run­way,” he said of the con­fer­ence rooms.

Plans for the cen­ter show 87 park­ing spa­ces be­tween the build­ing and South­west I Street. It also shows a wood deck over­look on the build­ing’s north side be­tween it and Lake Ben­tonville. A con­crete kayak launch in also in the plans.

“It’s go­ing to en­cour­age both gen­eral avi­a­tion and pedes­trian and ci­ti­zen in­volve­ment be­cause of its unique­ness,” said Bill Bur­ckart, air­port ad­vi­sory board mem­ber and City Coun­cil al­der­man.

The board’s vi­sion for seven years has in­cluded mak­ing the air­port more invit­ing to the pub­lic, Bur­ckart said. A lot of mov­ing pieces be­tween lo­cal, state and fed­eral govern­ments and the pri­vate sec­tor have come to­gether to get to this point of the air­port’s plan, Bur­ckart said.

The cen­ter is part of the plan, which was adopted by the City Coun­cil and the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion last year. A turf run­way has been built just west of the as­phalt run­way as out­lined in the plan.

The plan also in­cludes con­struc­tion of a cir­cu­lar apron just south of the flight cen­ter as well as a par­al­lel taxi­way on the air­port’s west side, which will open up more hangar devel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, of­fi­cials have said.

“We’re bust­ing at the seams,” Cox said of the hangar space, which houses more than 80 air­craft. “There’s no room for ad­di­tional air­craft to be hangared inside.”

The cen­ter is go­ing to serve the air­port’s strong pi­lot base rather than try­ing to build one, Cox said.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/BEN GOFF • @NWABENGOFF

A plane used by Sum­mit Avi­a­tion sits in front of the Sum­mit Avi­a­tion of­fice Mon­day at Ben­tonville’s air­port. Plans for a new flight cen­ter and mu­seum on the north­west side of the run­way, which will be­come the main en­trance to the air­port, in­clude space for some of Sum­mit Avi­a­tion’s op­er­a­tion, among other ameni­ties.

Cour­tesy Photo

This artist’s con­cep­tion shows Ben­tonville air­port’s new flight cen­ter. The two-story build­ing will house Sum­mit Avi­a­tion, the air­port’s fixed-based op­er­a­tor, a restau­rant, ex­hibit hangar, meet­ing rooms and a re­tail space. The cen­ter will be built on the air­port’s north­west cor­ner, just south of Lake Ben­tonville.

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