Multimillion-dollar renovation projects are underway at the Scottsdale Airport, adding amenities for pilots and residents alike, including a tribute to the area’s World War II roots.
The site, near Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Scottsdale Road, opened June 22, 1942, as Thunderbird Field II, a training facility for Army Air Corps pilots.
Today, the city-owned airport continues to grow as one of Arizona’s busiest corporate jet facilities with more than 300 flights in and out of the airport daily.
The airport is one of the city’s largest economic engines, generating $536 million in total economic benefits and more than 3,400 jobs for the region last year, according to Sarah Ferrara, the airport’s aviation planning and outreach coordinator.
The airport also breathes life into Scottsdale Airpark, which employs more than 56,000 people, according to a 2016 study by Colliers International.
Scottsdale leaders aim to maintain the airport’s status by bringing it more fully into the 21st century.
“Scottsdale Airport is a premier general aviation airport. We welcome people from all over the world. It’s important for us to keep this airport in supreme condition to ensure that our visitors and users have a safe and wonderful experience at our airport,” Ferrara said.
Old terminal razed to make way for upgrades
The City Council approved an update to the airport’s master plan in 2015, paving the way for the upgrades, including more executive hangar space.
The city razed the airport terminal and an aviation business center this past summer to make way for the hangars and other amenities.
Construction now is underway on:
The total cost for the three projects is $27 million, financed through city bonds. The projects are expected to be completed in summer 2018.
The new business center will include airport administrative offices and offices for U.S. Customs services and Civil Air Patrol. The center will offer amenities even for those without a pilot’s license, including a larger second-floor restaurant and space for meetings and events.
The restaurant, Volanti, will include patio seating and views of the airport and the McDowell Mountains.
Ferrara said airport officials hope that the new and improved airport will become a space that residents and visitors can experience even if they’re not traveling.
A veterans memorial to honor history
The new vision of Scottsdale Airport is all about modernization, but it will give a nod to its World War II past.
The airport was one of several flying fields around the Valley used to train Army Air Corps pilots.
Since then, it’s been through a change of hands. After the war, it was acquired by Arizona State University (then Arizona State Teacher’s College) for its aviation program. The property was sold in 1953 to the Arizona Conference of Seventh Day Adventists.
In 1966, the city purchased the airfield section of the property and it became the Scottsdale Airport. To showcase the field’s history, the city is building a veterans memorial plaza outside the business center.
The shade plaza will feature a Boeing-Stearman PT-17 provided by the non-profit Thunderbird Field II Veterans Memorial Inc., along with other artifacts.
“The new project will make sure that the airport embraces its history and what it has done for this community,” Ferrara said. “We hope we can offer a place for visitors to interact with the history and enjoy the Boeing aircraft, as well, of course, (as) honor those who served here at this airport long ago.”
The plaza project is estimated to cost $412,500, according to city staff, and will be paid by the city’s tourism development fund.
Ferrara said the plaza is projected to be completed in time to open in celebration of Memorial Day 2018.
Improvements also are about the flying experience.
One of two taxiways at Scottsdale Airport was updated in 2015, and the council recently approved spending $3.8 million to update the second taxiway. The taxiway has seen significant cracking and minor subgrade failure, according to a city report.
Most of the funding, $3.5 million, comes from the Federal Aviation Administration. The city and the Arizona Department of Transportation will pay $171,715 each on the taxiway work.
The taxiway, originally built in the 1970s, is located at the west end of the airport and connects directly to the runway at 14 locations. It’s the airport’s oldest piece of pavement, according to Airport Operations Manager Chris Read.
“This project will enhance the safety of this area, not to mention replace the old lighting and signs with energy efficient LED versions. This will also reap financial savings,” Read said.
The taxiway rebuild will focus primarily on the southern two-thirds of the taxiway experiencing the most problems. The northern third of the taxiway will be rebuilt at a later time and will only receive a sealcoat for now.
The project is expected to get underway this month and be completed around June 2018. The work will be done in phases so that most users on the airport’s west side will be able to access the runway during construction.