MOSES LAKE — It may very well be the highest disco ball in the state of Washington.
And it hangs around 100 feet up from the middle support beam of AeroTEC’s new 32,000-square-foot narrow body airplane hangar in Moses Lake.
“We did that because we can,” said AeroTEC president Lee Human.
Human, along with the entire AeroTEC staff, threw a party on Friday night to show off their new hangar — including dimming the lights and lighting up that disco ball.
It took AeroTEC seven months and $7 million to build this new hangar, Human said. The company arrived in Moses Lake to help Mitsubishi test its new regional jet — MRJ — and build a 65,000-square-foot hangar that can hold up to four MRJs.
Or anything smaller than the giant Airbus A-380 passenger jet, Human said.
“Why did we do this?” Human asked during a short speech to a hangar full of guests before the party began in earnest. “In our strategy, we decided there needs to be life for us here after the MRJ. We’re not fools.”
“Our strategic plan is to grow in Moses Lake,” Human said. “We’re in the flight test business, and this is the best location to do that.”
Since AeroTEC secured the deal to host Mistsubishi, Human said the whole aviation industry is looking at his company and Moses Lake, so they need to be prepared when the MRJ testing and certification program is expected to end in 2020.
“Having the MRJ program has enabled us to things,” Human said. “We’re credible. We’ve proved our capability.”
Human told guests that the smaller hangar was designed with the Boeing 737 in mind, though it can take planes up to the size of the 757. And, of course, other regional jets.
While Human wouldn’t say who the first occupant of the new hangar would be, he did say it was a plane powered by four propellers.
“And there aren’t many planes that have four props,” he added.
The hangar is state-of-the-art with a heated floor, a fire control system that can fill it with foam in a matter of minutes, and heavy, double-layered vinyl doors that seal tight with the ground yet let some ambient light in.
“The fire system means we can bring fully-fueled airplanes in here,” he said.
Port of Moses Lake Commissioner David Jones said he finds the decision by AeroTEC to stay in Moses Lake exciting.
“I think this is very impressive, and it speaks well for the future of this company in Moses Lake,” Jones said. “And they have a commitment to stay in Moses Lake.”
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.