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

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to add Boeing 737s to the Paine Field fleet

It’s a sign of the growing popularity of flying from Everett. So far, much smaller Embraer E175s have been the rule.

Mara Wiltshire, left, celebrates her first place finish in Mario Cart against her son Miles Jenkins, 7, as Calvin Jenkins, 5, looking on Friday evening at their home in Everett, Washington on January 7, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Child care’s heightened burden takes parents out of workforce

One Snohomish County mom said she couldn’t return to work “because I didn’t have child care and I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

Jack Ng, owner of China City, at his restaurant in Mill Creek on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Businesses and nonprofits plan to push through COVID in 2022

“You can’t just wait until the fog clears,” says one business owner. Here’s what he and others are planning.

Garry Clark, CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Economic Alliance launches new diversity and equity program

The economic development group hopes for widespread participation among the region’s employers.

A sign bearing the corporate logo hangs in the window of a Starbucks open only to take-away customers in this photograph taken Monday, April 26, 2021, in southeast Denver.  Starbucks is no longer requiring its U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reversing a policy it announced earlier this month. The Seattle coffee giant says, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022,  it's responding to last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Starbucks nixes vaccine mandate after Supreme Court ruling

The move reverses a policy the coffee company announced earlier this month.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Regulators OK doubling of composting operation in Stanwood

Lenz Enterprises can now handle 150,000 tons a year. Residents worry odors will be a problem.

Christian Sayre
Everett bar owner arrested again on new sexual assault charges

Christian Sayre, longtime owner of The Anchor Pub, was charged Friday with 10 counts of felony sex offenses.

FILE - Bill Gates speaks during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum, London, Tuesday, Oct, 19, 2021. A small city in the top U.S. coal-mining state of Wyoming will be home to a Bill Gates-backed experimental nuclear power project near a coal-fired power plant that will soon close, officials announced Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Microsoft to review workplace harassment, including Bill Gates allegations

One engineer wrote in a letter that she had a sexual relationship with Gates over several years.

Snohomish roofing company fined another $425K for safety violations

Allways Roofing has had at least seven serious injuries on its job sites, according to the state.

ZeroAvia will collaborate with Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines, to produce a hydrogen-electric powertrain capable of flying 76-seat regional De Havilland Q400 aircraft in excess of 500 nautical miles. (Alaska Airlines)
Hydrogen-powered aircraft company ZeroAvia coming to Everett

It adds to Snohomish County’s growing repertoire of firms focused on flight without petroleum.

Federal lawsuit challenges ‘tribal monopoly’ on sports betting

Maverick Gaming wants to invalidate compacts allowing tribes, including the Tulalip and Stillaguamish, to offer sports wagering.

FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, a worker walks near a mural of a Boeing 777 airplane at the company's manufacturing facility in Everett, Wash., north of Seattle. Federal regulators have indicated they likely won't certify Boeing's next airliner until 2023 because of questions about changes the aircraft manufacturer is making in software and hardware on a new version of the two-aisle 777 jet. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing keeps giving big money to lawmakers who voted to overturn the election

Amazon and Microsoft stopped donating to members of Congress who voted against certifying the election.