The Heritage Flight Museum was founded in 1996 by Maj. Gen. Bill Anders & his wife Valerie. Initially a flying collection of two aircraft, our Founders soon began to look for a location to house and grow the collection.
Hopes of Bellingham
In December of 2000, HFM was invited to meet with the Port of Bellingham regarding basing the collection at Bellingham International Airport. Letters and meetings showed intent on the part of the Port of Bellingham to make such a transition, and the subsequent development of a museum facility as an airport and community asset, worthwhile and beneficial to the museum. This intent is most clearly seen in a memorandum dated October 17, 2002 which outlines the Port’s desire and intent to construct a facility to house an aviation museum, and provide a $1/year land lease. [Click to view this memo] The Museum closed the door on other airports that were pursuing the collection as a result of making a commitment to the Port of Bellingham.
The collection moved into leased, temporary hangars shortly thereafter, believing that development of a proper museum facility would be imminent… However, development was always delayed by lingering wetland issues.
Several sites in the future General Aviation development area have been used to create drawings and designs for a museum building. HFM leadership were continually told that the Port was two weeks away from having the wetland permits in hand that would allow building to begin.
12 Years Later…
With the Port’s hiring of Charlie Sheldon as Executive Director our faith was renewed in the Port of Bellingham’s desire to retain the Heritage Flight Museum at the Bellingham Airport. Mr. Sheldon identified a new and readily available piece of land located north of Fed Ex at the landing end of runway 34. This site was presented as available, had full runway and freeway views, and adequate space to build hangars. HFM started working up new drawings and plans for this location.
In April 2012, the ousting of Charlie Sheldon from the Port of Bellingham occurred [click here to see Bellingham Herald reporter John Stark's review of this process] and things were once again in limbo. Again HFM put faith in the Port and began negotiations with Aviation Director Dan Zenk and Real Estate staffer Shirley McFearin. Almost immediately it was made clear that the original October 2002 memo offering a building and a $1/year land lease was no longer in the offering. Claims were made that it was illegal, that the State Auditor would not allow it, that it would result in the Port breaking certain grant assurances for FAA funding, and so on. The Port’s attorney, Frank Chmelik was asked by the Port to provide a letter backing up these claims with legal verbiage. [Click to view Chmelik's letter]
HFM staff and committee members made a few calls to the State Auditor and the FAA and determined that these reasons were utterly untrue. A meeting was held with an attorney in Seattle who is well versed in similar matters between non-profits and government agencies. He determined that while the October 2002 memo was not a binding document, all the reasons presented by the Port’s legal counsel was very arbitrary and that the laws they were presenting were written in such a way that the Port could have them work for or against supporting a Museum at Bellingham Airport. [View a review of Chmelik's letter]
As 2012 has progressed, opportunities and invitations from other groups in other locations have been presented to HFM. It is clear that others can see the value of a world-class aviation museum where the Port of Bellingham cannot. Museum Directors and committee members have been following up on, and researching, the viability of relocating and in the process have realized that developing in Bellingham under the conditions set by the Port are impossible.
Thus, on December 6, 2012 the Heritage Flight Museum will issue a press release stating formally, to the public and to Museum supporters, that it has become necessary to explore other options. [View this press release] We trust that HFM’s dedicated supporters will stay on our wing and continue to assist us in meeting our mission of honoring Veteran’s and keeping history alive through the preservation and flying of historic military aircraft.
A message to our members, fans & supporters…
It is very disappointing but it seems the Port of Bellingham will continue to take the stand that they will not honor the commitments they made to attract the Heritage Flight Museum to Bellingham. It is with regret that in honoring my responsibilities to the stewardship of the collection, I must open the door to looking for a more favorable location. We own the building we are in so there is no need to panic, but we no longer own the friendly future we moved here for.
I greatly appreciate the community support Whatcom County has given us. I regret the decay of functionality in the leadership of the Port of Bellingham that has forgotten what they said, and misplaced their understanding that attracting the Heritage Flight Museum fit right in with their community economic development responsibilities.
We will keep you posted as a clearer picture of our future emerges.
Thank you for your amazing support.
HERITAGE FLIGHT MUSEUM PURCHASES SKAGIT HANGAR
Museum preserving option to relocate to Skagit, no immediate move planned
Bellingham, WA – March 28 – The Heritage Flight Museum, located at Bellingham International Airport, has announced that it has purchased a large hangar at Skagit Regional Airport.
“We had been looking at Skagit Regional as an option for relocation” said HFM Executive Director Greg Anders, “This facility came on the market and was seeing a lot of interest. In order to preserve the option to get into a ready-made building that meets all of our space and operational needs, the Board of Directors decided to take action and not lose the opportunity.”
The museum is continuing its relocation search, and anticipates holding Warbird Weekend in June at the museum’s current facilities at Bellingham International Airport. For the most current information, as it is released, please see the museum website at www.heritageflight.org.