Pangborn Memorial Readies for Bigger, Greener Future With Apron Expansion

Pangborn Memorial Readies for Bigger, Greener Future With Apron Expansion
Chris Jones
Published in: 

When it comes to airport improvements, some projects satisfy current needs and others address long-term growth or environmental goals. The latest development at Pangborn Memorial Airport (EAT) checks all three boxes.

Over the past two summers, the small commercial airport in East Wenatchee, WA, replaced its 95,000-square-foot asphalt apron with 160,000 square feet of more durable concrete. Portions of a parallel taxiway were also relocated to place them closer to the sole runway. The nearly $12 million project, which finished this September, gives EAT room to grow and more space to park aircraft, including those as large as a Boeing 737.

“As we looked at what our pavement condition was and the repairs we had to do to an asphalt apron, moving forward we didn’t want that constant maintenance concern for areas where heavy aircraft are making slow turns,” says EAT Director Trent Moyers. “In front of the terminal, concrete just made sense.”


Project: Ramp Replacement/Expansion

Location: Pangborn Memorial Airport—
East Wenatchee, WA

Project Scope: Replace 95,000 sq. ft. of asphalt apron with 160,000 sq. ft. of new concrete pavement; drainage system improvements; plug-in connectivity for electric-powered aircraft  

Cost: $11.65 million

Funding: $11 million in Airport Improvement Program grants

Construction: Summer 2022-Sept. 2023

Engineer: Ardurra Group

Contractor: Hurst Construction

Glycol Containment: DuroMaxx® steel-reinforced polyethylene tank, by Contech ES

Slotted Drain System: DuraTrench, by Eric’sons

Sole Runway: 7,000 ft. long, 150 ft. wide

Commercial Service: 2 daily roundtrips to SEA via Horizon Air

2022 Enplanements: 34,706

Est. 2002 Operations: 40,000 (non-towered airport)

Airport Owner: Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority

Governance: Each county appoints 3 elected leaders to the Port Authority’s board of directors

Airport Operator: Port of Chelan County

Business Park Operator: Port of Douglas County

It also made sense to include two environmentally conscious design features in the FAA-funded expansion. The first involved a new runoff collection system for capturing and storing dispersed glycol from aircraft deicing operations. The second—utility connections for electric-powered aircraft—will help EAT meet the needs of a fleet still in commercial development. 

“To be as green as possible was the goal, and I think we achieved that,” Moyers says.

Caught in a Rut

Temperatures throughout the year in East Wenatchee range from subzero to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme summer heat caused ruts to form on EAT’s former asphalt apron, often snagging the rear landing gear of arriving Bombardier Q400 turboprops. Then, during winter, water that accumulated in the ruts would freeze, creating hazards for ramp-loaded passengers and aircraft service crews.

In pondering a change, Moyers wanted a solution that would allow aircraft deicing anywhere on the apron, not just in designated bays. But the system also had to be environmentally friendly. Project engineers from Ardurra Group adjusted the slope of the apron and taxiway to redirect stormwater away from the terminal and into a slotted drain system at midfield. From there, flow is directed into a grassy biofiltration area. In winter, the same system collects deicing effluent and stores it for secondary uses such as dust control on unpaved roadways.

Dura Trench, from Eric’sons, is the slotted drain system engineers specified to intercept storm water from the tarmac. At the airport’s request, the manufacturer added a special fire retardant to its ductile iron locking grate and galvanized frame to make the drain resistant to various aviation chemicals and fuels. The system can also be sealed for containment.

David Potter, national sales manager for Eric’sons, notes that the company’s pre-manufactured system saves airports time and money. “The product is much faster and overall less expensive to install than other similar products, especially cast-in-place designs,” he explains.

A new containment tank was added specifically for glycol runoff. Originally, a precast vault was specified, but the associated cost and installation challenges prompted general contractor Hurst Construction to evaluate other alternatives. Ultimately, it selected a DuroMaxx® steel-reinforced polyethylene glycol containment tank with watertight joints. Because the tank from Contech ES meets Buy American requirements and is approved by the FAA, it was eligible for federal funding. 

The tank’s total storage capacity is 88,600 gallons. Some of the excess glycol that is captured is metered into the municipal wastewater treatment plant.

“We can do small, consistent injections into the sewer system that don’t overload the plant with a huge volume every time a plane is sprayed,” explains J.R. Norvell, aviation services leader at Ardurra Group. “It’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.”

Miami-based Ardurra has managed work at EAT for the past six years. Norvell is particularly pleased to tout the airport’s recent addition of utility ducts beneath the apron to support plug-in connectivity for electric-powered aircraft.

“We spent a good amount of time with the local utility district to be prepared for that possibility,” he notes.

Old apron

A 2021 report by McKinsey & Company indicated that more than 250 entities are developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. As for market demand, major U.S. airlines such as American and United have preordered hundreds of electric aircraft designed to carry one pilot and four passengers more than 100 miles at speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour. Since 2018, businesses worldwide have ordered or optioned more than 6,700 future air mobility units valued at $102 billion.

With promises of low noise levels, zero emissions and the chance to trim four-hour drives into flights lasting less than 60 minutes, it’s easy to see why EAT is preparing to accommodate electric aircraft. Moyers credits his board and Chief Executive Officer Jim Kuntz for their strong support of modernizing and “future-proofing” the airport’s infrastructure.

“A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division Electric Aircraft Working Group,” Moyers says. “As a member of the group, I had more questions than answers, which, in turn, helped me see the need to prepare for a future that includes new types of aircraft.

“Fortunately, we work with a great team of engineers who helped us develop systems that will hopefully prove to be the answers to all those questions.”

Jesse Hurst, president of Hurst Construction in East Wenatchee, appreciated the opportunity to turn the engineers’ designs into reality. He especially enjoyed working on an active apron. To keep the area operational, the general contractor and its 10 subcontractors only took down half of the asphalt at a time.

“There were no hiccups,” Hurst reports. “It was fun to provide that apron while keeping [flights] in service.”

Geographic Challenges—and Opportunities

East Wenatchee sits dead center in Washington, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Seattle to the west, Spokane to the east or the U.S./Canadian border to the north. Given the city’s relative isolation, air service to Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) provides local residents a vital bridge to far-off places.

Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, is currently EAT’s only commercial air carrier, with twice daily nonstops to SEA. Last year, the airport logged nearly 35,000 enplanements. At the beginning of this year, Horizon Air changed equipment for its SEA route from the Q400 to the 76-seat Embraer 175.

The economy of EAT’s service area, which includes both Chelan and Douglas counties, has long been driven by vast local apple orchards, as well as hydroelectric power generated at the nearby Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River. More recently, an abundance of low-cost, renewable power has attracted investment from the technology sector, including a massive data center by industry giant Sabey Corp.

Late last year, Microsoft opened the $400 million first phase of its new data center complex that may ultimately exceed $1 billion in development costs, according to estimates last year in The Seattle Times.

“That ties Wenatchee really closely with Silicon Valley,” notes Norvell.

Naturally, changes in the local economy also drive changes to local air service.

Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded EAT a $750,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant to support a push for nonstop service to the San Francisco Bay area. Local businesses pledged more than $400,000 in matching contributions in hopes of adding flights to/from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) for both leisure and business purposes.

The effects of COVID-19 negated those efforts, however. Post-pandemic, EAT’s scheduled service with Horizon Air has fallen from three to four daily SEA departures in 2019 to the current two daily roundtrips. Despite the dip in commercial flights, Moyers says EAT’s airfield remains steadily busy with traffic from tenants and transient customers. 

Firefighting aircraft are based there when wildland fires occur, and the corporate aviation sector is growing. Looking out of his office window, Moyers sees business mainstays such as a Challenger 604, Beechcraft 1900 and Pilatus PC-12.

“Hopefully we’ll get there,” he says of a return to pre-pandemic traffic levels. “The demand is certainly there.”

EAT occupies 700 acres just east of the town center, and includes the 70-acre Pangborn Airport Business Park. Currently, the airport provides 90 direct jobs, supports nearly 200 more, and contributes $33.8 million annually to the local economy.

“It’s a large part of the community,” Hurst says. “Having a flight to Seattle is great, and hopefully with these improvements there will be flights to other locations. As Pangborn Airport grows, it will help the community to grow.”

What’s Past is Prologue

East Wenatchee and EAT are part of a colorful footnote in global aviation lore.

In October 1931, a pair of pilots was close to finishing the first-ever nonstop flight across the Pacific Ocean when its Bellanca CH-400, Miss Veedol, went off course and missed its intended landing site in Seattle. Bad weather halted subsequent efforts to touch down in Spokane and also Boise, ID.

Exhausted and flying on fumes, the crew unceremoniously capped their 41-hour journey from Japan with a belly landing on a sandy airstrip in East Wenatchee. When EAT opened a decade later, it bore the name of Clyde Pangborn, one of the Miss Veedol pilots.

While Moyers appreciates the past, he and the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority remain focused on the next chapter of East Wenatchee’s aviation history. Next year, the Washington Air National Guard will relocate an Army Aviation Support Facility from Spokane’s Fairchild Air Force Base to EAT, bringing nine helicopters and approximately 20 full-time jobs to East Wenatchee. In the wake of the recent apron improvements, planning is underway to replace the airport’s sole runway as early as 2025. And a medium-intensity approach lighting system with runway alignment indicator was recently added to boost wintertime approach visibility. All of these projects and more keep Moyers optimistic that EAT’s traffic will soon exceed pre-pandemic levels.

He hopes that growth will include service to the Bay Area. And perhaps in the not-too-distant future, some passengers will arrive in eco-friendly aircraft.

“We’ve built in capabilities to accommodate electric aircraft,” Moyers notes. “If that’s the future and that’s the way the industry goes, we’re positioned to grow with the investments we have made.”


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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