Peter Harrington knows to look up when he hears the word “plane.”
But the 18-month-old from San Clemente, Calif. just had to look forward to see two jets parked on the tarmac right outside Tacoma Narrows Airport’s new observation area on Monday, June 15. Peter spent some time pointing at the jets through the fence before breaking away to run around.
“My grandson loves airplanes,” David Jepsen, of Gig Harbor, said of Peter. “One can’t go overhead without him saying ‘plane, plane.’”
The pair, along with Peter’s father, James Harrington, spent the morning at a local park before stopping at the observation area, known as the Rotary Aviation Zone. The zone opened on June 3.
“His dad and I are hoping to see a few golfers,” Jepsen said. “We’re not the only ones,” he added, looking at the small group gathered on the zone’s observation tower.
The Harringtons are in town to see family and spend a few days at the U.S. Open Championship. Jepsen also plans to head to the event.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the players and how they take to the course,” he said.
The observation tower isn’t the only place at the airport experiencing growing crowds as the U.S. Open Championship practice rounds get underway.
The Hub at Gig Harbor was busy last week, with peak crowds on Sunday, June 14. Outdoor seating has especially been in high-demand, as the restaurant has a front-row seat to the runway.
“The excitement has been the jets coming in,” said co-owner Pat Nagle. “Everyone is hoping to get a glimpse of the players. There is a lot of fun energy up here.”
The restaurant is offering breakfast starting at 9 a.m. all week to give guests a few more hours to enjoy the view. They are also launching a jet catering service with a large selection of items from their menu. They’ve already had a few golfers and their flight crews use the service.
This influx of visitors and aircraft is just what Deb Wallace, Pierce County Public Works airport and ferry administrator, had anticipated. Tacoma Narrows Airport expects to see an increase in operations, with higher traffic levels on June 19, and June 21-22. Peak hours will likely be 7 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.
Wallace said the airport experienced higher traffic the afternoon and evening of Sunday, June 14, with most jets dropping off their passengers and taking off again. There were six jets parked on the ramp the morning of Monday, June 15.
“Tacoma Narrows Airport is the closest airport to Chambers Bay Golf Course,” she said. “We expect a significant amount of air traffic because of its location and services. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our airport to a national audience.”
Wallace said the airport’s two fixed-based operators – Tacoma Narrows Aviation and PAVCO Flight Center – are ready to provide concierge-type services such as fuel sales and rental cars for golfers and fans that fly in.
Jeff Stillwell, general manager of Tacoma Narrows Aviation, said the business has been providing ramp space, facilitating catering and providing group transportation for those arriving for the U.S. Open Championship. After several months of preparation, he is expecting a busy and fun week.
“I’ve been on the airport for four years, and this is without a doubt the busiest week on the airport I’ve been associated with,” he said. “This is really a great shot in the arm for Gig Harbor and Pierce County in general. This will help put this airport on the map.”
About Tacoma Narrows AirportTacoma Narrows Airport is a regional airport that is used for small business jet travel and general aviation. The airport serves businesses, recreational flying, flight instruction, medical services, the media, the military, and law enforcement. There are approximately 62,400 operations at the airport each year. More information about Tacoma Narrows Airport can be found at www.piercecountywa.org/tacomanarrows.
Pierce County also owns Pierce County Airport-Thun Field in Puyallup.
Deb Wallace, Public Works airport and ferry administrator
Anne Radford, Public Works public information officer