558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Hillsboro Aviation expanding to local airport
Although their initial presence will be small, they are not ruling out the possibility of future expansion
January 21, 2013
Because of cold and soggy winter weather, Hillsboro Aviation was looking for a new location to conduct their flight school classes during the season.
They recently found it with the Prineville-Crook County Airport.
Hillsboro Aviation was founded in 1980. They have since expanded to a second facility in Troutdale, Ore. They offer a flight school for national and international students as well as a contract charter service, and they also operate a sales and service division.
By the end of this month, the company will arrive in Prineville with two aircraft, two instructors, and about five students.
“They are just kind of starting out,” said airport manager Kelly Coffelt, “so they want to see how the program works before they talk about expanding it or doing any more.”
Hillsboro Aviation’s general manager John Hay said they chose the Prineville airport over other Central Oregon facilities because of the welcome they received from local leaders.
“We honestly just felt those guys really rolled out the carpet,” he said.
Hay went on to say that the other airports didn’t offer as many options or flexibility for their needs.
“They were not quite as willing to work with us to make it a mutually beneficial scenario.”
Hay also stressed the significance of the drier climate Prineville offers.
“There is rumor out there that you have 300 days of sunshine out there,” he quipped. “And we don’t.”
The Central Oregon weather helps them get students through certain phases of their training more quickly because they don’t have to wait out the rain.
“Certain types of training require longer stretches of good weather,” Hay said.
Prineville City Manager Steve Forrester pointed out that the airport has become a more viable option for general aviation and small business operations in recent years. He noted that the Bend airport has served the general aviation market in Central Oregon, but they have less space available, making the Prineville facility an attractive option.
“Prineville has significantly less traffic. We have lots of room. We have two runways where Bend only has one. We have a lot of room to build hangars.”
Coffelt said the addition of Hillsboro Aviation will boost fuel sales for the airport, which covers operating costs. In addition, he expects the presence of the flight school and its students to provide a modest benefit to the local economy.
“Those people are going to be staying here continually,” he said. “The people will be rotating out back and forth, but we will have people here. They will be doing everything in Prineville.”
Forrester considers the commitment of Hillsboro Aviation — as modest as it is so far — a huge first step in the right direction for the airport.
“It’s opening the door to another aspect of activity up there that we haven’t seen,” he said.
At this point, Hay could not say whether or not Hillsboro Aviation will expand their operation in Prineville. For now, they don’t plan to add any aircraft, but has not ruled out the possibility of growing the local program.
“I could see us opening a full-fledged campus there some day,” he said. “We’re dipping our toe in, and we’ll see if we decide to go swimming or not.”