THE FUTURE OF FLIGHT FOUNDATION STEPS UP
From late 2003 through 2004 the Museum of Flight was able to use some funds from the Public Utilities District to retain Barry Smith as a consultant and liaison so that he could continue to work on developing the Future of Flight project. Beyond that, the Future of Flight Foundation’s team consisted of its volunteer directors – until early 2005.
Part of the Future of Flight Foundation’s work in support of the project was formalized in late 2004 when the county retained the organization under a two-year contract to develop and implement a marketing plan (including “a grand opening promotion”). The plan implementation included not only creating logos and other brand identity items and conducting marketing and promotional activities, but also “staff training during pre-opening and post opening.” The Foundation agreed to spend $50,000 of its own funds on this work. Beyond that, the county would reimburse the Foundation’s “reasonable actual costs and reasonable administrative fees,” up to $350,000 over the two-year life of the contract. In practice, the Foundation’s work also included setting up a website, acquiring a ticketing system, and designing and managing the facility’s opening events.
As the new facility was being built at Paine Field, the Museum of Flight was reevaluating the time, attention, and financial impacts of its Future of Flight operator commitments on its existing operation based at Boeing Field south of downtown Seattle. In addition to managing and funding the normal operations of its growing facility, programs, and collection, the Museum was deeply engaged in a multi-year, multi-million dollar capital campaign designed to more than double the size of its facility. By the spring of 2004 it had become clear to the Museum of Flight staff and board of trustees and to its partners in the Future of Flight venture that the Museum should not also take on the responsibility and financial risk of the Paine Field project. Snohomish County then turned to the Future of Flight Foundation to take over operation of the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour. A formal assignment of the Operating Agreement from the Museum of Flight to the Foundation was eventually signed on May 18, 2006. In the meantime, the Foundation became the de facto operator of the facility.
Shortly after the marketing contract with the county was signed, Barry Smith began searching for the skilled people the Foundation would need for its new tasks.
In February 2005 retired City of Everett Executive Director Bob Cooper was hired as Operations Director. He would lay the groundwork for turning the Foundation into a business operation, developing human resources and financial policies and procedures, preparing business reports, and coordinating legal and tax matters. Mr. Cooper had become involved with the Foundation in 2004 as an advisor evaluating the new organization’s financial model.
Ann Averill was hired as the Business Manager to handle a wide range of tasks, including managing appointments and schedules; acquiring office equipment and services; arranging travel; producing board of directors reports and meeting minutes; coordinating public events and staff events; and recruiting additional administrative staff.
With the help of Boeing Store Manager Mikal Wasch, Mr. Smith searched for the best person to fill the key position of Marketing Director. That proved to be Sandy Ward, who started work in April. She had extensive experience in the tourism industry, including as the founding executive director of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau – a job in which she had become very familiar with the Boeing Tour and its untapped potential as an economic development asset for the region. In addition, she had previously served as the Executive Director of the Kitsap Peninsula Visitor and Convention Bureau. Her wide experience in the tourism industry also includes serving on the Washington State Tourism Commission, on the board of the Puget Sound Attractions Council, and on the board of the Experience Network (formerly the National Council of Attractions; part of the US Travel Association). She was an experienced and certificated trainer of front-line supervisors, staff and volunteers in the hospitality industry, which enabled her to set up the customer service part of the operation, including the front desk and the information center.
On Sandy Ward’s recommendation, the Foundation hired Melody Meyers as Personnel and Financial Assistant. She had handled the financial affairs of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau and had been the operations/branch manager of several Snohomish County banks.
On Ann Averill’s recommendation, Toni Olson was hired as Administrative Assistant. Her background included being a copy editor for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and twenty years as a word processor/paralegal for a Snohomish law firm.
Donna Beaudry began working in December 2005 as a Visitor Services Representative.
Mr. Smith and his founding team had been working out of his home, but with the hiring of a paid staff, the organization needed a regular office. Foundation president Melanie Jordan approached her friend Bruce McCaw about a small strip mall he owned near Paine Field. At that time it had only two regular tenants out of six available sites: a dry cleaner and a Starbucks. Mr. McCaw donated one of the spaces to the Foundation for a year. In April 2005 the Foundation staff moved into 10100 Mukilteo Speedway, unit #104, Mukilteo, WA, where it stayed until November, when it moved into the new Future of Flight building.
With a lot to accomplish in just a few months before the facility’s opening, the Foundation’s staff was very busy. As Sandy Ward put it, “We worked half days – 12 hours on and 12 hours off.”
The Foundation’s Board of Directors expanded in 2005, adding John Quinlivan, Site Vice President and General Manager for The Boeing Company’s Everett plant, and Howard Johnson, a successful financial and philanthropic advisor and a pilot. Mr. Johnson kept his airplane at Paine Field, and on many occasions he flew Mr. Smith to meetings with potential donors. Mr. Johnson was an early investor in the Hilton Garden Inn that was built next to the Future of Flight.
Peter Bro, Director of Facilities at the Museum of Flight, succeeded Richard Beckerman as the Museum’s ex officio representative on the board. He had been the Museum’s point person for negotiating the operating agreement with the county. Mr. Bro had an extensive career in museum management, especially in aviation exhibit construction, installation and maintenance, as well as public museum facility design and maintenance. For example, he designed the popular interactive 727 airliner exhibit installed on the upper floor of the Chicago Museum of Industry and was a key member of the Museum of Flight team that built the Personal Courage Wing and developed its many exhibits. When he became an ex officio member of the Foundation’s board, he provided advice to the group about operating a public attraction, developing the exhibit gallery, and putting on events. Mr. Smith observed that “Peter’s experience saved us from many costly missteps and greatly aided the 2005 build team, few of whom had any similar background.”
Due to a job change Mr. Rahkonen ended his service as The Boeing Company ex officio member, but the board valued his contributions so much that it appointed him a regular “citizen” member.
While the facility was being built, the Foundation worked to acquire exhibits. A significant grant from The Boeing Company enabled the hiring of The Production Network Group of Seattle to help design exhibit installations.
The signature feature of the gallery was to be the vertical tail fin of a Boeing 747. The Future of Flight Foundation’s president, Melanie Jordan, recalled the adventure of acquiring that item. Click here to read more about that adventure.
While construction of the building was still underway, other large exhibits were installed in the gallery, including a GE engine that arrived in late July, and a Boeing 787 test fuselage section that was installed in late September.
On October 2, 2005 the Foundation and the Museum of Flight concluded an agreement by which the Museum loaned the Foundation the following items for display in the Future of Flight exhibit gallery:
Beech/Raytheon Starship, N8158X, serial no. NC42
Glasair TG-1, N83JR
Glasair III, N12JR
Rutan Quickie, N77Q
Rolls-Royce Avon Mk. 524 B/C, serial no. 35008 (since returned to the M.O.F.)
Pratt & Whitney JT-3P, serial no. 420479 (since returned to the M.O.F.)
Boeing 727-232 cockpit, as removed from N272OB, serial # 20641
12 double sets of 727 passenger seats, as removed from Boeing 727-232, N272OB, serial no. 20641.
By opening day, over 60 exhibits and interactive stations filled the Aviation Center’s Gallery.