Central Oregon Airports on Growth Pattern


With a steady increase over the years in passenger flights and the upgrades and expansion of facilities the Redmond Airport has positioned itself to be the central hub for transportation in Central Oregon. The economic power of this hub is significant to the success of numerous businesses in Central Oregon to travel around the country and beyond for commerce purposes. 

In addition, a burgeoning aviation industry coupled with smaller airports in Bend, Prineville, Madras, Sisters and Sunriver are serving as not only transportation hubs for smaller aviation service but as economic  development opportunities.

Here’s a brief recap:


Since 1997 the Redmond Airport has grown by nearly 50 percent to 238,195 registered passenger flights in 2012.  Since that time the airport facility has grown with several changes in facilities expansion, carriers and most recently acquiring Robert Nobel as an interim airport manager.

Given the importance of the airport to the region’s growing economy and transportation needs, Nobel was lured to Redmond by Redmond City Manager Keith Witcosky to work on long term airport goals including assessing the current environment, identifying critical issues and developing the processes for implementing initiatives.Nobel has more than 18 years of experience in numerous public aviation leadership roles across Oregon.  

He served as the airport manager for the City of Eugene from 2001-07. Witcosky says Nobel’s knowledge, skills and experience will position Redmond Airport for long term success as it continues to play an essential role as an economic driver for all of Central Oregon. 
Nobel explains, “In our region there are no freeways, rail or other carriers so the airport becomes the main transportation link.”

This resonates with Witcosky who has a goal for Redmond’s prized asset when he says, “Looking ahead, we want Redmond Airport to become known as the best airport of its size in the nation. That means it will be the preferred choice for commercial air carriers and general aviation clients based on the best services, infrastructure and facilities of any airport of similar size in the country. Clients will recognize this value by investing through leases and other contracts which allow the airport to be a self-sustaining and continually improving community asset.”

In evaluating the present condition of the airport Nobel says, “First, the status of RDM Airport is already extraordinary in many ways.  There are some things that need improvement, but there is no need for triage. The Airport already has a beautiful facility, good commercial air service, dedicated employees and business associates, a supportive governing body and region-wide utilization.”The City of Redmond owns the airport so it needs to be in cooperation with its future development and growth. Witcosky adds, “Roberts Field is one of the primary drivers for economic development across Central Oregon.It is the only true commercial airport in the region and as such it must do its part to increase commerce, economic activity and job growth.”

Redmond’s new city manager shares his goals of what the airport can be for the region, “Our vision is that aviation, aerospace and other traded sector industries continue to invest and cluster around the airport.  Partners such as Redmond Economic Development Inc. (REDI) and Economic Development for Central Oregon are working with us to create jobs and attract private sector investment at the airport.” 

To that end the airport wants to position itself to attract the type of development that Witcosky envisions within the airport master plan by rezoning some of its surrounding land.  Jon Stark Manager of REDI says,  “Within the 1,500 acres of Industrial land in Redmond is a soon-to-be newly zoned 465 acres of industrial land, some private and some airport owned, that will include parcels from 30-50 acres for attracting larger scale industrial and manufacturing companies.”Nobel concludes: “I want to help position RDM for long term success and for it to be the best airport of its size in the country.  This vision is aspirational and is also achievable.”


In May 2012  Oregon Senator Ron Wyden made a flying visit to Bend Municipal Airport to check in on a $3.5 million taxiway overhaul funded with the help of federal dollars and set to smooth the way for more aviation-related jobs, as well as boosting hopes of landing a major Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) testing site in the region. 

Flanked by backhoes, the Democratic high-flier hailed the runway renovation – financed in part by a Federal Aviation Administration grant – as highlighting the importance of government investment in infrastructure projects producing meaningful economic benefit. After protracted Congressional approval of the FAA reauthorization bill which Sen. Wyden (D-Ore.) helped get passed earlier this year – including an Airport Improvement Program initiative targeted at smaller facilities – work began on rebuilding and resurfacing Bend’s previously disheveled “Taxiway A”, which is also being widened from 30 to 35 feet to accommodate larger aircraft like the Gulfstream business jet.

Airport Manager Gary Judd said that businesses linked with the aviation hub had weathered the headwinds of the recent recession remarkably well and estimated that the 13 businesses located there provided over 140 jobs and generated an estimated $35 million in annual revenue, as well as close to $13 million in payroll. He added: “The improvement work will put us in an even better position regarding economic development, including opportunities with China which is making huge investments domestically and pretty much creating a general aviation infrastructure from scratch.”While the recession brought little growth to the Bend Airport recently changes are bringing it into the spotlight again with companies like Leading Edge Aviation that has been operating for 25 years and is now providing fuel to patrons of the Bend Airport.

It has installed a brand new, state-of-the art fuel service center.Leading Edge Aviation (LEA) has seven major business segments including commercial helicopter operations, airplane and helicopter flight training, avionics, maintenance, Robinson Helicopter overhaul and wiring harness fabrication and now, fuel services.At the Bend Airport you will find several aviation companies expanding services, manufacturing and jobs.

Advanced Aviation serves as an experimental aircraft builders assist shop. Professional Air recently completed construction of a new nine-hangar building on the airport’s east side, for lease or for sale. The company is completing a new 5,000 square foot custom hangar December 2013.Windward Performance LLC designs and manufactures aerospace products, glider and sailplanes and X-Airis a lightweight aircraft maker. 

Epic Air, which was acquired by Engineering LLC, a Russian company specializing in aircraft maintenance in March 2012, now has the ability to attain certification and expand to a global market. In December 2012, Epic Air purchased the 204,000 square foot property on Nelson Road in the Bend Airport Enterprise Zone.  Acquisition of the vacant building allows the company to realize its goal of production beyond kit planes to build aircraft certified by the by the FAA.


 If you thought Prineville Airport was a sleepy airport, think again.  Kelly Coffelt, Prineville Airport manager, gave this synopsis of the airport’s growth and development:Hillsboro Aviation is expanding their flight school to include operations at the Prineville Airport. This will include the construction of two 24 feet x 100 feet dormitories this winter and then two more in the spring.

The flight school dorms will house 30 – 40 students, including international students. Hillsboro plans to use a fleet of seven to ten planes, along with helicopters. The school has already secured the land-use agreement.The City of Prineville and Cook County recently signed letters of support for land use on the West side of the airport for use by the U.S. Department of Forestry.

The Dept. of Forestry already has some operations at the airport, but this will allow them to centralize their operations and give them room for needed expansion.The airport has already seen an increase in corporate aircraft arrivals and will be able to accommodate even more with their addition of their own AWOS [Automated Weather Observation System].

Having their own AWOS will allow commercial aircraft to fly IFR [Instrument Flight Rules] directly into Prineville. Coffelt states, “We are really growing and fortunately, we have the space to do so. We are pleased to be a part of the tremendous aviation economic activity that is in Prineville. As a side note, we often have fly-ins [pilots fly in to the airport for events]and these events are always a lot of fun. They are a good mix of aviation, family and business.

www.prinevilleairport.com ‎Prineville Airport is located in Central Oregon with Cheap fuel and has aircraft maintenance also flight instruction located on the Airport.

SISTERS EAGLE AIRPORT In April 2013 Sisters began the start-of-art vital project to renew the aging runway at Sisters Eagle Airport. Airport owner Benny Benson of Energyneering Solutions Inc. and Airport Manager Hobbs Magaret offer that it is a bold statement of confidence to the advancing development of Sisters transportation hub and the sheer effectiveness of private/public partnerships.

In November of 2011, Benson and Magaret began the long process of acquiring the ConnectOregon IV grant to replace the airport’s deteriorating runway. The airport’s existing runway is 3,500 feet long and 30 feet wide and will be expanded to 60 feet wide, elevating it to current FAA standards with a premium resurfacing.“We’re also changing some of the sloping, initiating a new hanger project in August pending our annexation approval with the city and adding a self-service aviation fueling station,” Benson said. “That’s something that was not previously available here in Sisters.” 

“The key to all this is to have an infrastructure that will last so we’re not skimping on the base. As you can see we’ve already started rolling the equipment out,” said Magaret, gesturing to bulldozers and graders parked on the tarmac. “That was this past Monday and next week we’ll start grinding up the pavement. The whole project should take about 2 ½ months. Once it’s done we’ll also be able to accommodate up to 10 aircraft when the first set of hangers are installed.” 

80 percent of the entire $750,000 runway project is funded by ODOT with the remaining portion funded privately. It was seeded by a Lottery-backed bond for the ConnectOregon program, supported by the State of Oregon and funded by the legislature to look at non-highway infrastructure improvements that promote economic development and jobs.


 Over the past 10 years the City of Madras, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Oregon departments of aviation, transportation and business and Jefferson County have invested $16.6 million in infrastructure and buildings at the airport. They hope to invest another $5 million to upgrade the airport.  Madras economic development officials would like to become the next aviation hub. 

The city-owned airport took a giant step towards this goal in January 2013 when it signed an agreement with Erickson Aero Tanker, a subsidiary of Hillsboro, Oregon-based Aero Air, LLC, and landed the first of what could be several more retrofitted commercial McDonnell Douglas MD-87 jets at the city-owned airport by the end of March. The company anticipates signing federal firefighting contracts this month which could create anywhere from 22 to 50 jobs at the airport down the road, according to Erickson Aero Tanker.

Economic development is critical in Jefferson County where the unemployment rate is 11.9 percent, according to the latest seasonally adjusted data from the Oregon Employment Department. “Getting a firm like that for what will be their national headquarters for firefighting is a big deal,” said Rick Allen, a former Madras mayor who spearheaded efforts to improve the airport while mayor that have continued over the last decade. “When they are not fighting fires, they will bring their planes back to Madras for a mechanic’s base.

Those will be good-paying jobs.”In August 2013 city, county and airport officials broke ground for the Erickson Aircraft Collection Facility at the Madras Airport. The 64,000-square-foot facility, which will be located directly north of the 44,000-square-foot Aero Tanker facility, will be used to store Aero Tanker’s MD-87s, as well as aircraft from the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum. The second phase of the project will be to build out the facility for the museum attraction. It will include airplanes, Jeeps, a tank, and “a lot of memorabilia” from World War II through the Vietnam and Korean wars. Steele Associates Architects, of Bend, designed the facility, and CS Construction, of Bend will construct the building. 


 The Sunriver Airport, which is privately owned and operated by Sunriver Resort, is located on the west side of the Sunriver Resort property. It is open to the public and can accommodate almost any type of general aviation aircraft from the smallest single engine airplane to a Gulfstream V Jet. Full service fuel is available for both Jet-A and 100LL AvGas, and both fuels are available 24 hours a day at the self serve station. The pilot lounge is also open 24 hours with access to restrooms, computer and internet and courtesy shuttles to the Resort. Hangar rentals are available as well. The airport completed a runway construction project in April 2009 where the runway was totally re-built, strengthened and widened.


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