Collectors of old movie-ticket stubs, thimbles and state quarters should be warned: Paul Allen's assemblage of vintage warplanes may make...

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Collectors of old movie-ticket stubs, thimbles and state quarters should be warned: Paul Allen’s assemblage of vintage warplanes may make other collections seem a bit, well, outdone.

Museum-goers in the Puget Sound region have already seen Allen’s array of envy-inducing memorabilia at the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, but starting in June, they’ll have a chance to check out his collection of vintage warplanes in its new home at Paine Field in Everett.

The military aircraft in Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection are rare and extremely valuable. Many have been restored from war wreckage into flyable aircraft straight from the World War II era.

The opening of the collection at Paine Field will be not only a signal Allen wants more folks to see his planes but also proof the Snohomish County airport is morphing into both a hub for aerospace activity and an international draw for airplane enthusiasts.

“It’s absolutely wonderful that Mr. Allen has decided to share his collection and to keep it in Snohomish County. It’s something we should all be very proud of,” said Dave Waggoner, airport director at Paine Field.

Allen’s accumulation of military aircraft had been something of a hidden gem at Arlington Municipal Airport for years — only private groups with appointments got to glimpse his warplanes housed in a nondescript hangar at the grassy airfield in northern Snohomish County.

“For the longest time, it was the best-kept secret,” said Dale Carman, airport supervisor at Arlington Municipal Airport.

“Now there’s a different focus,” Flying Heritage Collection director Adrian Hunt said. “Now the goal is to share them with a greater number of people.”

After the search for a new location, the Microsoft co-founder and Vulcan chairman announced his collection would be moved south to Paine Field and a revamped space three times the old one’s size. No appointments here — the doors will be very much open to the public.

The Snohomish County Council approved a 10-year lease that will cost Allen about $350,500 a year. As part of his lease agreement, Allen would make more than $5 million in improvements to the hangar on the southeast corner of Paine Field. He will be partially reimbursed by the county in rent credits.

“I think it is good for the whole Puget Sound area because we did manage to keep the collection here,” said Waggoner.

For Arlington Municipal Airport, losing the collection was a disappointment.

“We kind of stress they were the main attraction here at the airport,” said airport supervisor Carman. “We were sad to see it go.”

Era’s “greatest hits”

Fifteen of Allen’s planes — what Hunt calls “the greatest hits of World War II” — will be on display at Paine Field starting June 6, the anniversary of D-Day.

Some of the planes included in the collection are a Polikarpov U-2/PO-2, Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk, Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 Emil, Grumman F6F Hellcat and a Focke Wulf Fw 190D-13 Dora.

It will cost adults $12 to view the collection in the overhauled hangar, which during the summer will be open for visitors seven days a week.

What makes the collection unique is that most of the planes have been restored so fully that they can take flight and navigate the skies as they did in their heydays.

Each plane has a story: what part of history it represents and how it was recovered and restored. Allen has been collecting the aircraft for the past decade from many countries, including the United States, Britain, Russia, Japan and Germany.

The restoration is impeccable — even the specific thread-count of fabric inside the planes is authentic, said Hunt. Various companies around the world restore the aircraft in a process that can take up to five years for each one.

Dick Knapinski, spokesman for the national Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), said restoring an old warplane to flying condition can cost anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million.

“It has to be a labor of love, but it’s not a labor of love that comes free,” Knapinski said.

Increasingly, aviation enthusiasts are taking up the hobby of restoring old military planes, he said. About 7,000 people belong to a division of the EAA dedicated specifically to warplane restoration.

“It is something that, as time goes on, these aircraft not only become more important to have … the interest in them becomes greater,” he said.

Plenty for visitors to see

The Flying Heritage Collection will be one of several attractions for aviation lovers at Paine Field, which was built in the 1930s with the goal of establishing a large commercial airport.

The Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour, which opened in 2005, is already drawing international visitors. Goodrich Aviation Technical Services provides repair and maintenance for airlines, joining the Museum of Flight’s restoration facility and Legend Flyers, which is reproducing Me 262 aircraft — history’s first fighter jets, used by Germany late in World War II.

A Boeing manufacturing assembly plant calls Paine Field home, too. It’s where the company’s new 787 Dreamliner will be assembled.

John Sessions, a Seattle attorney and owner of the Historic Aircraft Foundation, plans to build three hangars, one to house his vintage planes. That addition to Paine Field is likely next year, said Waggoner.

“It’s just kind of an aviation visitor mecca,” Sandy Ward, spokeswoman for the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour, said of the airport.

Ward said that last year, 17 percent of the visitors were international and about a third came from states other than Washington. She expects the attractions will draw more than 200,000 visitors this year.

Far less traffic is expected at the Flying Heritage Collection, — likely about 20,000 visitors in the first year.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned to mark the June 6 opening. On the following Saturday, people will be able to watch some of the collection’s vintage airplanes in flight at the airfield for free, and on every other Saturday after that.

“Paine Field has become an aviation center of attraction,” Waggoner said. “I’m not aware of any airport that has a collection of activities and venues like ours.”

Christina Siderius: 425-745-7813 or csiderius@seattletimes.com