EVERETT — Snohomish County is interested in forming a partnership with the Museum of Flight in Seattle to bring more tourists to Paine Field.
An agreement signed Monday gives the county and the museum through the end of this year to negotiate an operations and management agreement for the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour. If things move ahead, a new management structure could be in place in a year.
“It is important that we continuously examine how to maximize assets to improve our economic strength and opportunities to draw tourists to Snohomish County,” County Executive Dave Somers said.
The Museum of Flight is an independent nonprofit. Based at Boeing Field in Seattle, its collection includes more than 150 aircraft and thousands of related objects. The Future of Flight’s airplanes and a mock-up space module are on loan from the museum.
It’s the county’s largest tourist attraction. The Future of Flight & Boeing Tour attracted more than 500,000 people last year. Of the visitors, 324,000 went to tour the nearby plant where Boeing builds 747, 777 and 787 jets. The others visited the Future of Flight aerospace gallery, education programs or special events.
Erika Callahan, the Seattle museum’s vice president of communications, said discussions with the county are in their early stages.
“This is just the beginning of a formal conversation about forming a strategic alliance,” Callahan said. “Because we just signed the letter, we can’t presume to know where our efforts will lead.”
The Future of Flight opened in December 2005. The county owns the building, but the nonprofit Institute of Flight runs it through a contract with several years remaining.
“We’ve had a long-standing agreement with the Museum of Flight since our inception,” said Bonnie Hilory, the institute’s executive director.
Formerly known as the Future of Flight Foundation, the institute also markets the Boeing tour, runs educational programs, hosts special events and oversees charitable programs.
“We’re really looking forward to working with the county and the Boeing Co. and the Museum of Flight to develop the Future of Flight Aviation Center, which is a great resource for Snohomish County,” said Nicholas Patrick, a former NASA astronaut who serves as the institute’s board president.
Paine Field has seen several recent developments that could elevate its economic profile.
Regularly scheduled commercial flights could start up as early as the fall of 2018, following last week’s groundbreaking on a new two-gate passenger terminal. Alaska Airlines expects to offer at least nine daily flights, using up about half the terminal’s capacity. Other carriers also are expected to serve the facility.
In April, Snohomish County officials signed their first-ever memorandum of cooperation with a Japanese airport. Like Paine Field, Chubu Centrair International Airport near the port city of Nagoya is an aerospace manufacturing hub and supplies key components for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
Other aerospace attractions at Paine Field include Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum and John Sessions’ Historic Flight Foundation. The Museum of Flight also houses its Restoration Center and Reserve Collection there.