The Flying Smiths
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Determined and ambitious, Ben Smith always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He wasn’t afraid to take risks or try new opportunities. Milk production wasn’t the only business venture for the Smiths. They delivered home heating oil and operated Smith Tractor, which had seven stores in Washington and one in Alaska.
It was this same enthusiasm that he would later instill in his seven kids, including sons, Howard and Dan.
It started while the two Smith brothers were attending Washington State University. When they started talking about buying an airplane, Ben helped them herd the cows into other fields and fenced off 40 acres for a landing area.
The farm, which was south of Kent on the West Valley Highway, had still resembled a pasture - save for the windsock and a few T-hangars. It shortly became a popular spot for local businessmen, where they formed the Valley Flying Club, using the field as their operating base. However, as soon as things started to progress, the war broke out and civilian flying was banned. The cows returned to the fields.
Howard became an Army Primary School flight instructor and later joined the Air Transport Command. While in the service, he started making plans for his father’s field. He wanted to turn the farm into a haven for private flyers.
After World War II ended, the Smith family began constructing their airpark and the cows were once again herded off. They added a control tower, a 3,000-foot runway, more than 30 hangars, along with a restaurant and lounge catering to small aircraft owners. What began as a spot for Ben’s sons to fly at home would become the Pacific Northwest’s busiest airparks for private flying.