Warbelow's builds new terminal at Fairbanks airport

PHOTO/Journal file
Art Warbelow’s business strategy is simple: Grow like a weed or wilt like one.

"You got to keep growing," said the owner of Warbelow’s Air Ventures Inc. of Fairbanks. "If you don’t, you shrink."

It’s that philosophy that has Warbelow undertaking the largest expansion in the company’s history, a new $1.5 million, 21,000-square-foot passenger terminal and maintenance facility at the Fairbanks International Airport.

The facility also will offer a new restaurant and gift shop, both of which will be run by the Warbelow’s Air Ventures, which claims to be the largest passenger-carrying commuter airline out of Fairbanks.

Construction of the new terminal and hangar started in April and should be completed by the end of the year, Warbelow said.

Ron Price and Associates of Fairbanks designed the new facility and is guiding its construction, Warbelow said.

"We really needed to add to our passenger services," said Warbelow, whose current facility at Fairbanks International is cramped, has little parking and barely enough room for airplane maintenance.

Warbelow’s new facility is the first such venture off the airport’s’ new $2 million taxiway extension. The airline also has leased a large tract adjacent to the new facility to provide a business buffer and for future growth.

Jim Fiorenzi, assistant manager at Fairbanks International, said the $2 million taxiway extension was aimed at businesses like Warbelow’s.

"Art has grown to be our largest commuter air carrier," Fiorenzi said. "What goes along with growth is more activity and more people and airplanes to deal with.

"Art’s relocation should not only meet his current needs, but future needs, too."

Warbelow’s father, pioneer aviator Marvin Warbelow, founded the airline in 1956. Art Warbelow and his two brothers, Ron and Charlie, took over the family business in 1971, after Marvin’s death.

Renamed 40-Mile Air Inc. and based in Tok, the new airline mostly featured charters with a few scheduled flights to the local surrounding area. 40-Mile Air expanded to Fairbanks in 1981, adding scheduled flights to Alaska’s Interior, according to company history.

In 1989, Art Warbelow said, the brothers each wanted to take the airline in different directions and 40-Mile Air was divided among them. Art Warbelow retained operations out of Fairbanks and Warbelow’s Air Ventures was reborn. Charlie Warbelow kept 40-Mile Air and Ron Warbelow started his own business, Casseron Turbo Helicopters.

In 1999, Charlie Warbelow was killed when the helicopter he was flying crashed at the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport.

During the last dozen years, Warbelow’s Air Ventures has flourished, Art Warbelow said. The airline has grown from five airplanes carrying about 100 passengers monthly to 16 airplanes and 3,000 passengers a month.

Warbelow’s Air ventures serves 28 communities by scheduled commuter, charter and contract air service.

The airline provides contract medical evacuation services to several Interior villages.

The company employs about 75 people and is expecting to add a few more once the new facility at Fairbanks International is completed, Warbelow said.

In the past few years, the airline has expanded its bases in Galena and Unalakleet to keep up with growth. Warbelow’s Air Ventures last year also began offering flight instruction.

06/09/2002 - 8:00pm