Historic airfield now a modern industrial park

Editors Note: This story is one of a series featured in "Destination Kingman - The Present." "Destination Kingman" is a special four-part section included in consecutive Sunday Miner's.

Kingman Airfield, now owned by the city of Kingman, was the largest air gunnery training facility in the U.S.

during the 1940s with as many as 7,000 B-17s parked.

Today, it is a major airport facility and the primary economic development asset of the city.

Kingman 2005 is the economic development organization contracted with the city to operate the Kingman Airfield Industrial Park.

Former Kingman 2005 President Bill Hoke said in July that 71 businesses employing 1800 people are located there.

During 1999 and the first half of 2000, Kingman 2005 created nearly 1,000 jobs directly or indirectly, according to Hoke's report to the Kingman Economic and Tourism Development Commission.

Dave French, the chairman of Kingman 2005, and Hal Johnson, president of the Kingman Airport Authority, and staff have continued to provide information to prospective clients and host visits while conducting a national search for a new economic developer.

Applications for the position closed Aug.

15.

The latest company to build a facility and open in the industrial park is Guardian Fiberglass.

Hoke called the Guardian facility "the largest box in Mohave County" referring to the size of the factory.

All the economic development and airport management east of Flightline Drive at the airport are the responsibility of Airport Manager Robert Najaka.

Both the industrial park and the airport operate under the nonprofit corporation, the Airport Authority, with Brenda Chastain as director of corporate administration.

The sale of land, approved by the city, is a major source of funds for infrastructure improvements in the industrial park.

"It all operates as a business," Najaka said.

He is responsible for the overall operation of the airport and meeting the terms and conditions of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Najaka represents the Kingman Airport Authority as the lessor of facilities to tenants.

"My job is to keep them all happy and support the airport goals," he said.

Najaka has two full-time and one part time maintenance workers responsible for keeping all the airport grass mowed, keep animals off the runways and maintain the fences, keep the runways cleaned and do the exterior maintenance work on the hangers.

Daily commuter flights from Kingman to Phoenix are operated by AmWest Express with three flights during the week and two on weekends.

"We maintain the same security level for commercial flights as they have at Sky Harbor in Phoenix under FAA regulations," he said.

"We are always looking for a connection between Kingman and Las Vegas, but the cost of operation under the FAA is high."

He said any operator must have high reliability and a good on-time record to build passenger use.

Airport services include business couriers, daily air freight by FedEx and UPS, medical air evacuation and a Bureau of Land Management air tanker during fire season.

Two fixed-base operators provide general aviation services, including refueling and aircraft maintenance.

The paint shop draws business from other airports and is one of the best available, Najaka said.

Two companies provide flight instruction from the Kingman Airport and support the general aviation and pleasure flying for Kingman residents.

The climate is ideal for aircraft storage and the airfield has ample space.

British Aerospace Jetstreams are stored with 75 on hand most of the time.

Airliners are stored when not in use or after being taken from service.

Kingman Airline Service works with Boeing to ready MD90s for customer pickup.

"We have people here certified to do major aircraft inspections," Najaka said.

"The mechanics can do heavy checks, take aircraft apart, check and reassemble the aircraft."

Last fall, all the pavement at the airport was seal coated.

Site development work was completed and a series of T hangers constructed.

This was a $1 million project that provides lease income.

The hangers are 75 percent filled with room to expand the current capacity for 20 single engine planes and two multi-engine aircraft.

The major addition to the airport over the next two years is a complete replacement of the runway lighting system.

Much of the system is 25 years old and some dates back 50 years, Najaka said.

"We will have a vastly more reliable system with backup power," he said.

"We will not expect any more lighting failures.

Pilots will be able to turn on the lights from the cockpit for landing."

Total cost of the lighting is projected at about $700,000, with the money coming from state and federal airport grants.

Najaka said he also sees growing use of the commercial flights from Kingman.

"There is a 30 minute check-in, free parking and no hassle," he said.

"With the growth of industry and increasing seniors in the population, more people should want to fly from Kingman.

We are seeing a growth in the use of the airport by corporate aircraft.

All that builds the airport and local industry."

Najaka said Kingman airport is a major asset not well recognized in the community but a key part of bringing industry to the region.