Heritage Flight Museum moving from Bellingham to Skagit


BELLINGHAM - The Heritage Flight Museum has announced it will be moving out of Bellingham International Airport to a new home at Skagit Regional Airport.

Since the museum moved to Bellingham in 2001, its "Warbird Weekend" events have been popular with aviation and military history buffs. Vintage aircraft from the museum's own collection, as well as visiting planes such as a B-17 World War II bomber, have roared through Whatcom County skies during those museum events.

Museum Executive Director Greg Anders announced that the museum will hold its final monthly fly day in Bellingham on Saturday, Nov. 16.

At the Bellingham airport, the museum has occupied a portion of a hangar subleased from Apogee LLC, a company owned by Greg Anders' father Bill Anders. Bill Anders is the former Apollo astronaut who founded the museum in 1996 before its move to Bellingham five years later.

In December 2012, Greg Anders had announced that the relocation of the museum was a strong possibility. At that time, he expressed displeasure over the fact that Port of Bellingham officials had refused to honor what he said were earlier assurances that they would provide airport real estate for a new museum building at nominal cost.

Port officials said they had agreed to consider such an arrangement in 2001 and 2002, but had never made a commitment to Anders. They also cited legal impediments to donating valuable public real estate to Anders' museum.

In announcing the decision to move to Skagit Regional Airport, Greg Anders expressed regret, but added that Port of Skagit officials have been far more receptive.

"The people of the community have been fantastic and we regret our need for departure," Anders said in an announcement on the museum's Web page. "We are a small business that cannot survive in an infertile environment. And we are a community asset that has options to be where our value is appreciated by the elected officials and their staff. The Port of Skagit understands the Heritage Flight Museum's ability to be a catalyst and stimulus to a community's economy, and they set the stage for a successful business environment. We must go where we are more likely to thrive."

The museum could have what Anders called a "soft opening" at its new facility as soon as February 2014, with a grand opening that could be scheduled in time for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April.

Port of Bellingham Executive Director Rob Fix said the port has enjoyed having the flight museum as a tenant.

"We wish them great success down in Skagit Valley," Fix said.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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