An experimental Boeing plane hangs above visitors looking at engines and planes on display at the Future of Flight on Friday in Mukilteo. The Boeing Co. plans this year to operate the Future of Flight Aviation Center. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

An experimental Boeing plane hangs above visitors looking at engines and planes on display at the Future of Flight on Friday in Mukilteo. The Boeing Co. plans this year to operate the Future of Flight Aviation Center. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Boeing will take the controls at the Future of Flight museum

The county’s contract with the current operator, the Institute of Flight, is expiring.

EVERETT — The Boeing Co., which announced billions of dollars’ worth of airplane deals this week, plans this year to close on a more down-to-earth venture — operating the Future of Flight Aviation Center. The company’s neighbor at Paine Field is one of Snohomish County’s biggest tourist attractions.

If all goes as planned, Boeing will take over operations of the aviation gallery on the west side of the airport and the aviation programs there. The aerospace giant signed a letter of intent Wednesday to enter into a long-term lease for the Future of Flight Aviation Center, which is owned by Snohomish County, according to a county news release.

Boeing currently leases 20 percent of the Future of Flight Center, which it uses as the starting point for tours of its nearby Everett assembly plant and as a venue for occasional events. The tour attracts more than 320,000 visitors a year. Under the new contract, Boeing would lease the entire building.

Boeing said on Friday it looks forward to “expanding and enhancing visitor experiences beyond the public tour and increasing community engagement at the facility.”

The Future of Flight will continue to be a public facility and will “continue to host local and international conferences, events and educational activities at the facility,” the company said in an email.

Still, changes could be in store for the 13-year-old Aviation Center once the new lease is signed.

“The most noticeable change will be in the Gallery,” the company said. “Boeing is considering near-term and longer term investments that will make the Future of Flight a premier destination in Puget Sound. As we finalize plans, we will share them.”

Boeing is wrapping up participation this week in the year’s biggest aerospace event, the Farnborough International Airshow outside London.

Since the Future of Flight opened in 2005, it’s been operated by the Institute of Flight, formerly known as the Future of Flight Foundation. The nonprofit oversees day-to-day operations, management and ticketing of the center at 8415 Paine Field Blvd. in Mukilteo. It also markets the Boeing tour, runs educational programs and oversees charitable programs.

The Institute of Flight, which has about 30 employees, has an annual budget of $3.8 million.

The county’s contract with the Institute of Flight expires October 11.

Jeff Van Dyck, the Institute of Flight’s executive director, said Friday the Institute plans to close the Future of Flight’s Gallery in September and remove the collection. The center’s airplanes and a mock-up space module are on loan from Seattle’s Museum of Flight, an independent nonprofit.

The Institute plans to disband once Boeing takes over operations, Van Dyck said Friday.

While the Future of Flight Center has achieved much success, it also is in need of continued investment, including significant ongoing financial commitments to establish a world-class gallery and new exhibits, county officials said.

In pursuit of that goal, Snohomish County began seeking new management options. In June 2017, officials began negotiating with the nonprofit Museum of Flight in Seattle to manage the Future of Flight. Those talks earlier this year ended without a deal.

County spokesman Kent Patton said talk of new management began about two years ago when Airport Director Arif Ghouse and County Executive Dave Somers began discussing a new vision of the airport and surrounding areas. The county also owns and operates Paine Field Airport.

“They began to ask what it would mean…to have an entirely different entity managing it, one that might be able to invest more and do more,” Patton said.

While the number of visitors was “pretty good,” county officials hoped they could be even better, he said.

Boeing was with us the whole time, Patton said. “They were talking about how they thought this public facility would be extraordinarily valuable for informing future aerospace enthusiasts. Now they’ve come forward to say ‘we think we could help take this to a new level.’”

Its hoped the Institute of Flight continues to support the Future of Flight, Patton said. “We have the greatest respect for them. They may have a role to play — we don’t know what that might continue to be until we get into the nitty-gritty of discussion,” Patton said.

Discussions with Boeing have been under way since late 2017, Patton said.

Somers said he’s looking forward to seeing what can happen with more involvement by the world’s largest aerospace company.

“By expanding our partnership with Boeing, we are bringing their aerospace expertise, global reach and commitment to educating the public to the county’s single biggest tourist attraction,” Somers said.

Kendee Yamaguchi, Snohomish County executive director for economic development, said that “with tourism accounting for over $2 billion in economic activity in the county and the planned launch of a commercial air terminal at Paine Field next year, Boeing’s partnership comes at a perfect time.”

Together, the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour sees about 500,000 visitors per year.

Janice Podsada:; 425-339-3097. Twitter: @JanicePods.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

An access road leads into plot of land located in north Darrington that could potentially be used to build a 30-acre Wood Innovation Center, which will house CLT manufacturing and modular building companies on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Darrington, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$6 million grant is green light for Darrington timber center

The Darrington Wood Innovation Center is set to become a reality — bringing roughly 150 jobs with it.

Boeing 777 makes emergency landing in Moscow

The plane landed safely and no one was injured.

FILE- In this Oct. 19, 2015, file photo, an airplane flies over a sign at Boeing's newly expanded 737 delivery center at Boeing Field in Seattle. Federal regulators have imposed $5.4 million in civil penalties against Boeing on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, for violating terms of a $12 million settlement in 2015, and the aircraft maker has agreed to pay another $1.21 million to settle two current enforcement cases. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing will pay $6.6 million to settle FAA allegations

The company failed to put adequate priority on complying with regulations.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, file photo, a United Airlines Boeing 737 Max airplane takes off in the rain, at Renton Municipal Airport in Renton, Wash. Federal auditors are issuing fresh criticism of the government agency that approved the Boeing 737 Max. The Transportation Department's inspector general said Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, that the Federal Aviation Administration must improve its process for certifying new planes.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Federal watchdog blasts FAA over certification of Boeing jet

It will take five years to finish making the Transportation Department’s 14 recommended changes.

Hamburger cheese with beef, salad, tomato and ham isolated on white background.
You voted: The best hamburger in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people still have their favorites.

Boeing’s decorated 787 Dreamliner on display at a celebration for the Boeing Employees Community Fund last year at the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo. (Janice Podsada / Herald file)
Boeing’s deepening 787 inspections risk longer delays

The company will use freed-up space in Everett to inspect and repair the plane’s tiny imperfections.

Barre3 owner Gina Drake leads an exercise class in the Red Barn at 5th Ave S and Maple Street on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2020 in Edmonds, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Barre3 teaches a fitness trifecta for balance during COVID-19

The full-body workouts combine strength conditioning, cardio and mindfulness to help you feel balanced.

In this image taken from video, the engine of United Airlines Flight 328 is on fire after after experiencing "a right-engine failure" shortly after takeoff from Denver International Airport, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Denver, Colo. The Boeing 777 landed safely and none of the passengers or crew onboard were hurt. (Chad Schnell via AP)
Metal fatigue seen as trigger for Boeing 777 engine failure

A preliminary investigation suggested a crack that grew gradually over time prompted the failure.

Boeing 757 flying to Seattle makes emergency landing

The 16-year-old jetliner was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.

This Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 photo provided by Hayden Smith shows United Airlines Flight 328 approaching Denver International Airport, after experiencing "a right-engine failure" shortly after takeoff from Denver. Federal regulators are investigating what caused a catastrophic engine failure on the plane that rained debris on Denver suburbs as the aircraft made an emergency landing. Authorities said nobody aboard or on the ground was hurt despite large pieces of the engine casing that narrowly missed homes below. (Hayden Smith via AP)
Boeing: 777s with engine that blew apart should be grounded

Video showed the engine fully engulfed in flames as the plane flew through the air.

A portion of the site of the proposed Lake Stevens Costco at the intersection of Highway 9 (right) and South Lake Stevens Road (below, out of view). (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Legal battle stalls Costco’s planned store in Lake Stevens

“We intend to keep them in court until they get tired of us and go away,” an opponent of the project said.

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2020, file photo a Boeing 777X airplane takes off on its first flight with the Olympic Mountains in the background at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. Boeing is reporting another huge loss, this one because of a setback to its 777X widebody jetliner. Boeing said Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, it lost $8.4 billion in the fourth quarter on weaker demand for planes during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing says 2 directors are leaving as board faces scrutiny

Arthur Collins Jr. and Susan Schwab won’t stand for reelection at the shareholder meeting in April.