Exit 3 Aviation Hangar Construction Marks Continued Expansion of Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport

Feb. 23, 2022

WESTFIELD — Alex Colby remembers coming to Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport as a 2-year-old and eating breakfast as he watched the airplanes.

Tuesday, he celebrated a ceremonial groundbreaking for his Exit 3 Aviation project — three hangars with two of about 11,000 square feet each one of about 9,000 square feet — which he plans to open in December 2022.

It’s a $3 million to $4 million investment that will create indoor storage space for as many as 15 aircraft. Colby, a Westfield resident who is also president of property management company Jibber Enterprises, said he’ll use some space for his and his family’s planes but much will be available for rent.

And he’s already rented 75% of the available space.

“Every hangar at this airport has a waiting list of people looking to come here,” he said.

Besides space for airplanes, the hangars will have kitchen and office space. The largest aircraft Exit 3 will accommodate is about a 6- or 7-passenger business turbojet. Anything larger and Exit 3 would have to comply with more stringent regulations.

Colby is renting the land at 110 Airport Road from the Airport Authority for $29,000 a year with future price adjustments called for in a 40-year lease.

So creating more hangar space benefits the airport and Westfield’s economy.

“People look at the airport and think it’s just a bunch of hobbyists,” Colby said. “But the people who own these aircraft have businesses and they use those aircraft for business.”

Airport manager Christopher Willenborg said that even though Exit 3 Aviation won’t provide services the planes based there will require fuel , repairs and other services from vendors already on site.

And Exit 3 is just the most recent in a series of ongoing developments, including the $4.7 million taxiway and ramp project unveiled in May 2021.

Westfield Barnes Regional Airport is also planning an $18 million taxiway project in 2023 and 2024 and will soon request for proposals looking to add even more hangar space in a separate project elsewhere on the airfield.

The state is also doing ongoing design work for a new high -security gate for Barnes. The state and city are also working to attract the Air Force’s latest-generation F-35 at the 109th Fighter Wing at Barnes.

Willenborg said Tuesday that word on the F-35s might come in the next few months.

Currently, Barnes has 130 aircraft based on site and 350,000 take-offs and landings a year, Willenborg said. The airport has 2,100 jobs and an annual economic impact of $236 million a year.

Westfield Mayor Michael McCabe was on hand to congratulate Colby and his family accompanied by state Rep. Kelly W. Pease, R- Westfield, and state Sen. John C. Velis, D- Westfield.

The state Senate has already in the statehouse is gaining house passage of two bills meant to make it easier for military spouses to get Massachusetts professional licenses when they move here and make it easier for military children to access schools and colleges here. The two measures are crucial for getting the F-35 jets, he said.

The state senate has already passed the bills.

As for the name Exit 3, Colby joked that the planning process for the business, and the creation of its logo, took so long the state went ahead with a highway exit renumbering program. The old Exit 3 on the nearby Massachusetts Turnpike is now Exit 41, named after the highway mileage from the New York border and not sequentially.

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