A shortage of parking space for privately owned airplanes in the Valley is creating a potentially profitable market despite a downturn in the economy, according to a Valley builder who just completed construction of 41 new hangars at Falcon Field Airport in Mesa.
Joe Reilly, owner of a relatively new hangar-building company, Reilly Aviation, on Monday will celebrate the opening of the new hangars during a ceremony with airport and Mesa officials. It marks a turning point in what has been an ongoing dilemma facing airplane owners in the Valley for years - the inability to find reasonably priced hangar space.
"We learned there are about 900 planes in the Valley at a dozen regional airports that need hangars," Reilly said.
Among some of the reasons for the shortage is that municipally owned airports have been reluctant over the years to build their own hangars and charge rental fees. Officials have contended that the rental fees would be too low to make construction economically feasible. Another delay is believed caused by municipalities preferring to develop part of their airports for private commercial developments such as office and retail space - a move that would create jobs as well as revenue - rather than use the space to build more hangars.
Meanwhile, an alternative to the ongoing problem is what is being celebrated Monday - a private developer (Reilly Aviation) leasing property from the municipality, building hangars and then selling them to plane owners.
Reilly entered the hangar-building business in 2006 after working as a real estate developer primarily in the Tucson area for more than 20 years. As the residential real estate market began to slump, he turned toward building airplane hangars after learning about the growing demand for them.
"The weather and climate can destroy some very expensive aircraft when they're parked outdoors," said Reilly, who owns and operates the company with his wife, Cindy.
"Planes can rot if they're unprotected."
The Falcon Field hangars are between 1,200 and 3,700 square feet in a 71,000-square-foot section of the 600-acre airport, which opened in 1941 during World War II to train pilots for Britain's Royal Air Force.
Reilly has already received contracts from buyers for more than 30 percent of the new hangars, which cost an average of $110 a square foot. His next plan is to construct more hangars at Falcon Field, which is bounded by McDowell, McKellips, Greenfield and Higley roads.
The new hangars include built-in sewers, water, electrical power and fire protection. "This way, the companies can not only park their planes, but they can carry on their businesses inside the hangar if need be," Reilly said.
Corrine Nystrom, airport director, said the new hangars will have a positive economic impact on Falcon Field. "This project further demonstrates the aviation and development synergy of the area," Nystrom said at a lease-signing ceremony that began the project.
Falcon Field is owned by Mesa and has more than 50 aviation-related companies and more than 400 hangars. With its 300,000 takeoffs and landings each year, the airport is rated third in economic impact among Arizona airports, behind Phoenix Sky Harbor International and Tucson International. It is listed among the top 10 in the nation for general aviation in the number of aircraft and flight operations, according to Nystrom. The airport has two major runways, one 5,100 feet long and the other, 3,800.
Reilly said the demand for hangars prevailed on different levels at all airports he examined, especially in Scottsdale, where, he said, the wait for a hangar could be as long as 25 years. Other airports he researched for hangar needs included Sky Harbor and Tucson International as well as Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and airports in Goodyear, Deer Valley, Chandler, Scottsdale, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Glendale, Carefree and Casa Grande.