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

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

School board members listen to public comment during a Marysville School Board meeting on Monday, June 3, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. Rinehardt is seated third from left. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Marysville school board president resigns amid turmoil

Wade Rinehardt’s resignation, announced at Monday’s school board meeting, continues a string of tumultuous news in the district.

A BNSF train crosses Grove St/72nd St, NE in Marysville, Washington on March 17, 2022. Marysville recently got funding for design work for an overcrossing at the intersection. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
BNSF owes nearly $400M to Washington tribe, judge rules

A federal judge ruled last year that the railroad trespassed as it sent trains carrying crude oil through the Swinomish Reservation.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

Everett Housing Authority is asking for city approval for its proposed development of 16 acres of land currently occupied by the vacant Baker Heights public housing development on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett inches closer to Park District affordable housing plan

Building heights — originally proposed at 15 stories tall — could be locked in with council approval in July.

The intersection of Larch Way, Logan Road and Locust Way on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 in Alderwood Manor, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Roundabout project to shut down major Bothell intersection for months

The $4.5 million project will rebuild the four-way stop at Larch and Locust ways. The detour will stretch for miles.

State Sen. Mark Mullet, left, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, right, are both running as Democrats for governor in 2024. (Photos courtesy of Mullet and Ferguson campaigns)
Rival Democrats spar over fundraising in Washington governor’s race

Mark Mullet is questioning Bob Ferguson’s campaign finance connections with the state party. Ferguson says the claims are baseless.

A log truck rolled over into power lines on Monday, June 17, in Darrington. (Photo provided by Alexis Monical)
Log truck rolls into utility lines in Darrington, knocking out power

The truck rolled over Monday morning at the intersection of Highway 530 and Fullerton Avenue. About 750 addresses were without power.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.