Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                A view of Kaynan Inc. hangar spaces, which are to possibly be demolished pending decisions on the Airport Master Plan.

Photo by Haley Ausbun A view of Kaynan Inc. hangar spaces, which are to possibly be demolished pending decisions on the Airport Master Plan.

Fate of hangars at Renton Airport up in the air

Tenants asked to vacate Kaynan hangars now waiting on decision from city.

Kaynan Inc., rented out aircraft storage for small airplanes at Renton Municipal Airport for more than 30 years, and it’s five buildings are seeing the end of operation.

Kaynan’s long-term lease from 1985 ended in 2016, and the owners Ben and Marty Ellison were unable to reach an agreement with the city on a new lease, as they had lost too many tenants who believed the hangars would be demolished, and costs for the hangars continued to increase.

The brothers said they also reached out to the city through a lawyer asking to meet in person twice to discuss the lease agreement but were refused.

In July, the Ellison brothers notified tenants the lease would terminate on Aug. 31, 2018, as they were told to tell them from the city. But they are surprised to find tenants still there.

Tenants are being told by the city that no final decisions have been made yet as to what to do with the hangars, Deputy Public Affairs Administrator Preeti Shridhar said in an email. She said in the interim, the city has negotiated, the buildings have been inspected and that the results will soon be made available to the public.

Within the expired lease is a reversion clause requiring Kaynan to demolish the buildings if the city so requested at the end of the lease, Shridhar said. She said since Kaynan refused to do demolition, the city now needs to consider whether to do this themselves and create tie-down space while the airport completes the airport master plan update.

Ben said in that initial lease, the demolition was just for the smaller hangars and would be around $50,000. Marty Ellison said they had estimated for that as they neared the end, but were then told by the city they would also be responsible for breaking up concrete and demolishing one of the buildings containing asbestos. This raised the demolition costs up to $500,000, Ben said.

The Ellison brothers approached the city in 2007 offering to upgrade the old buildings, which they described as ugly and ratty. They said the city didn’t approve it and wanted to use their bond money to do repairs themselves down the line.

Although Ben describes the hangars as being touched by the ugly stick, he said they are an important asset for the people who rent there.

Thomas Lewis has been a tenant of Kaynan’s hangars since the early ’90s, but flying his whole life. Out of high school he completed pilot training with the Navy, then served in the Korean War. When he returned he got married and attended MIT, graduating with a masters of science in aeronautical engineering. He then moved from New York to Boeing and back again, and back again, in different jobs piloting, selling or engineering aircrafts.

“If you’re in the business, it’s like being a fruit picker, you go where the fruit is ripe,” Lewis said. “I’ve always worked with Aviation.”

But what he really loves is flying his personal airplane. With the low altitudes, across the country, he said he’s been able to see sights you can’t enjoy from the road or all the way up at 30,000 feet.

His current airplane is a 1953 beach craft bonzanza that he restored and modernized. His retirement project took eight years to meticulously restore, he said. Although he doesn’t get to fly it much anymore, he doesn’t want to see it stored outside.

Lewis hopes the city will look at the situation and decide to let this go for awhile. He would also be interested in new hangars being built there.

Ben has always had a passion for general aviation, the small engine airplanes housed at the hangar.

Their other company, Ellison Fluid Systems, produced a popular fuel injection device for small crafts. It has since been sold, leaving the hangar unable to sustain costs without the company renting part of the space for fuel testing.

Lewis said it’s hard to find a space for a small personal plane in the area. He knows that the hangars look old, but they keep the rain off his airplane.

“That’s the important thing as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know where I’m gonna take the airplane if they do make me move out of the hangar,” he said. “I don’t know, might just have to move out of the state or something.”

Ben said covered hangars like theirs, are important for aircrafts weather protection. Planes are often made of wood and fabric.

Marty said he hopes the city takes into accounts the needs of the small guy, of the non-commercial planes in the area that have limited places to store their crafts and continue to move elsewhere, and the ability for people to learn to fly using these small crafts.

“We spent the last 34 years kind of being a champion for the small guy. And to the extent that we can influence the city, we’ll do that. We’ll argue in favor of making the (airport master plan) compatible with the small aircraft manufacturers. Like Ben said, if we don’t start making more pilots there won’t be anyone to drive all these airplanes,” he said.

Marty said they’ve always had good experiences with the city in the past. Ben mentioned they had never met the two most recent airport managers.

Shridhar said the city is committed to providing the hangar tenants with reasonable notice.

Tenants who have questions should contact the airport business coordinator Casey Boatman at 206-947-2164 or cboatman@rentonwa.gov.

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