Everett Hangar (foreground) has won a series of court cases with the Historic Flight Foundation and related entities over security concerns and trespass issues. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

Everett Hangar (foreground) has won a series of court cases with the Historic Flight Foundation and related entities over security concerns and trespass issues. (Noah Haglund / The Herald)

Paine Field neighbors clashed in court over security risks

The legal fight between a corporate hangar and the Historic Flight Foundation led to soaring costs.

MUKILTEO — After two pilots landed a corporate Learjet at Paine Field and started their post-flight routine one summer day in 2017, they were surprised when a man walked up to the aircraft’s open door and asked if he could come inside.

The stranger had strolled onto Everett Hangar’s property without permission. He identified himself as a guest of the Historic Flight Foundation museum next door but wore no identifying badge, the pilots later recalled. One of the pilots asked him to leave.

“The man, however, pressed me several more times to board the aircraft, and I repeatedly and politely told him it was not a public aircraft he could view and that he was trespassing,” the pilot said, in a sworn court statement.

The pilots grew concerned the man might become physically aggressive, though he eventually left.

The encounter from the August before last was part of a running dispute between the private hangar and the neighboring museum. They both lease land from Paine Field. The conflict underscores some of the difficulties vintage airplanes and corporate jets have had co-existing on the west edge of Snohomish County’s airport.

By that point, Everett Hangar, the museum and its affiliates had been clashing in court for years.

The corporate hangar exclusively serves Weidner Property Management, a Kirkland-based company that develops townhomes throughout the western U.S. and Canada. Its facility, just off Mukilteo Speedway, is sandwiched between two lots. One hosts the museum and the other is undeveloped; both neighboring land parcels are leased to a company controlled by Historic Flight founder John Sessions.

In 2014, Everett Hangar sued in Snohomish County Superior Court, claiming that public events at the museum had blocked its access to the property and created unreasonable risks, among other allegations. A later suit in King County Superior Court challenged Everett Hangar over the rules for managing the adjoining properties. Much of the legal back-and-forth deals with the intricacies of airport covenants, conditions and restrictions.

Everett Hangar prevailed in both cases in the state Court of Appeals earlier this year, though not all of its claims were borne out.

The claims that have stood up in court have largely involved patrons wandering over from the museum or an undeveloped lot used for parking, where there was an open gate and no security personnel. Those lapses violated the requirements set out for the museum in a court injunction.

In 2017, a Snohomish County Superior Court judge found the nonprofit museum and a company involved with managing its building in contempt of the injunction. The judge imposed $35,000 in penalties for seven violations.

While the museum had taken steps to prevent violations, the judge said “they are plainly insufficient.”

The contempt order is a tiny fraction of the expense.

Each side has enlisted major Seattle law firms. Legal costs have run into the millions of dollars.

Everett Hangar has been awarded more than $1.6 million in legal fees, including interest, from the two separate court cases and appeals. Davis Wright Tremaine represents Everett Hangar.

The court-awarded fees don’t count what Sessions has paid attorneys from Perkins Coie and Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson.

Opened in 2010, the Historic Flight Foundation houses immaculately restored fighters, passenger planes and other aircraft in flying condition. Together, they showcase aviation history from the late 1920s through the late 1950s, spanning Charles Lindbergh’s solo Atlantic flight to the development of the Boeing 707.

Sessions had been able to fly the planes in the collection, but had a setback last summer while piloting a 1930s biplane at the Abbotsford International Airshow in British Columbia. Sessions crashed shortly after takeoff with four spectators on board. The passengers survived, apparently without grave injuries, but Sessions’ left foot was severed below the knee. He’s learned to walk with a prosthesis and soon hopes to resume jogging.

As the legal fight has worn on, Historic Flight’s activities at Paine Field have shrunk.

The nonprofit last year stopped hosting its Vintage Aircraft Weekend over the Labor Day holiday weekend, an event that attracted 70 airplanes a year earlier.

Political leaders have clipped more ambitious plans as well.

In 2014, Sessions pitched an idea to expand his attraction into a hub of up to a half-dozen buildings for restoring, displaying and studying vintage aircraft. The county would have had to provide the space for free, or at a nominal fee, for the possibility of adding another attraction of global renown. After two years, a majority of the County Council turned down the proposal, reasoning the land could be put to better use at market rate for manufacturing and more contemporary aviation businesses.

Paine Field is a magnet for aviation tourism. It hosts The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour and the late Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum. The Museum of Flight maintains its Restoration Center and Reserve Collection there.

After the county rejected his expansion plan, Sessions began exploring other alternatives in the region. The Historic Flight Foundation is now working with Felts Field in Spokane on building a second location, an art deco-style hangar expected to be ready later this year.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Monroe in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Police: Monroe hit and run suspect arrested for 2 DUIs in 3 hours

The driver had just been arrested and released for a DUI, when he allegedly ran a red light and crashed into a pickup.

Everett
Man hurt in house fire east of Everett

The home in the 12400 block of 51st Avenue SE was reported on fire at 12:54 a.m.

A wanted suspect was arrested after a standoff with law enforcement Tuesday night. (Bothell Police Department)
Kidnapping suspect arrested after standoff in Bothell

A large police presence contained the property in the 20500 block of 32nd Dr. SE on Tuesday night.

Community Transit's Lynnwood microtransit pilot project is set to launch this fall with a service area around the Alderwood mall. (Community Transit)
Lynnwood’s microtransit test begins this fall, others possible

Community Transit could launch other on-demand services in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens.

Doctor Thomas Robey sits in a courtyard at Providence Regional Medical Center on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘It’d be a miracle’: Providence tests new treatment for meth addiction

Monoclonal antibodies could lead to the first drug designed to fight meth addiction. Everett was chosen due to its high meth use.

Rev. Barbara Raspberry, dressed in her go-to officiating garments, sits in the indoor chapel at her home, the Purple Wedding Chapel, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Everett, Washington. The space used to be two bedrooms, but she and her husband Don took down a wall converted them into a room for wedding ceremonies the day after their youngest son moved out over 20 years ago. The room can seat about 20 for in-person ceremonies, plus it serves as a changing room for brides and is the setting for virtual weddings that Raspberry officiates between brides and their incarcerated fiancees at the Monroe Correctional Complex. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s oh-so-colorful Purple Wedding Chapel is in the red

Rev. Rasberry has hitched hundreds of couples over the years. After her husband died, she’s unsure if she can keep the place.

Everett
Man dies in motorcycle crash that snarled I-5 in Everett

Washington State Patrol: he tried to speed by another driver but lost control and hit the shoulder barrier.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Child, 4, hit and killed while playing in driveway in Snohomish

Detectives don’t believe the crash will lead to criminal charges, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

Everett
Police: Woman killed in home invasion near Everett

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office reports there were three assailants.

Most Read