Whidbey Airpark is under new ownership.
Sky and Tara Rudolph, who recently moved to Langley after spending two decades in Seattle, purchased the 2,500-foot privately owned, public use airport on Dec. 29. The couple say they are taking a long and measured approach to the airport to ensure its long-term stability. One of the first steps in that process was meeting with about two dozen pilots and interested community members on Saturday at Mukilteo Coffee Roaster in Langley to discuss a long list of ways to improve the airport.
Gathering in the coffee shop’s warehouse, the Rudolphs introduced themselves to the flying community, outlined some of their hopes and wishes for the airport, shared results from a survey taken by pilots and welcomed feedback to help guide any future improvements.
“It just feels like an exciting time for this little area in the woods,” Sky Rudolph said in a phone interview Monday morning. “There’s lot of people interested in making it as interesting, exciting and inviting as possible from many different angles.”
They also made it clear during the meeting that Whidbey Airpark would continue functioning as South Whidbey’s only airport, which alleviated concern amongst some of the pilots who feared it might be sold and then used for another purpose.
“I think we’re all very happy that aviation enthusiasts have purchased the airport and are planning on keeping it going, because there’s so many small airports across the country that are closing,” Langley resident Rick Foxworthy said.
The airport purchase included 44 acres of property, including facilities such as a 2,500-foot runway and a small airport manager’s office. The Island County Assessor’s Office recorded the sale as being $950,000. It had been previously listed at $1.25 million, according to a local real estate business.
Natives of Washington, Sky and Tara Rudolph hail from the Port Angeles area. They both attended the University of Washington, where Sky Rudolph received a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering and Tara received a nursing degree. Sky Rudolph also owns QuickSilver Aerospace, an aviation consulting organization, while Tara Rudolph is a nurse manager for Bellevue Spine Specialists.
Sky Rudolph said one of his biggest takeaways from the meeting was the level of energy and excitement surrounding the park. A primary objective for the couple is to gather input from those who live in the community and choose a course of direction that will be “great 10 or 15 years from now,” as results from large infrastructure projects can “echo for a long time,” he said.
“We want to make sure we do it right,” Sky Rudolph said.
A survey sent to pilots gauged their acceptance of possible improvements or amenities to the airport such as the addition of runway lights, trimming trees north of the runway, increasing the length of the runway, aircraft rentals and even a potential name change of the airport. Some proposed names included Whiskey Field and Porter Field; keeping Whidbey Airpark was also an option, according to the survey.
Preliminary results from the survey showed a variety of feedback and levels of acceptance. For example, there was a strong desire for additional hangars, but mixed results for runway lights.
“This was an area where it’s clear we can’t make everyone happy,” said Sky Rudolph at the meeting in reference to potential runway lights.
Sky Rudolph said trimming trees near the runway and removing moss from the pavement will be accomplished in the near future with the help of work parties and could improve the overall safety of the airport. He also said that while it will be necessary to cut the trees that are encroaching on the runway, they have no intention of changing the character of Whidbey Airpark.
“We like the fact that it’s a small field in the middle of the woods and not another small runway in a big open field,” Sky Rudolph said. “We’ll be playing the balancing act of improving the access without changing the character.”
Other improvement plans include fixing cracks on the runway’s pavement and improving the visibility of the north wind sock.
“It isn’t indicating wind direction as well as it could be,” Sky Rudolph said.
The poor condition of Crawford Road near the airport was also a subject of discussion at the meeting. It was a topic that Foxworthy was particularly keen to learn more about.
“I come to the airport almost every day and it’s a nightmare,” Foxworthy said. “It’s terrible.”
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson spoke for a few minutes at the meeting and pledged her support for improving the road. She said that the situation is “very complicated” but is willing to work with interested parties in improving the road. Craig Izett of the Middle Crawford Road Association also said at the meeting that efforts to improve the road are underway.
Sky Rudolph said that he is also a proponent of making the airport readily available for usage in the event of an emergency, such as if an earthquake were to hit the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia subduction zone. Improvements to Crawford Road will be key if the airport is to become an effective emergency management tool.
Dan Diessner was pleased with the meeting overall, saying that new ownership at the airport could end its downward “spiral for the last 10 or 15 years.”
“It’s great to see this kind of leadership come to South Whidbey,” Diessner said. “This could be a great vibrant place for South Whidbey and it’s just been falling apart for over a decade. This is really tremendous. People are interested.”