HAYWARD -- Although hundreds of planes are based at the city's airport, which saw tens of thousands of takeoffs and landings last year, passengers and pilots are relegated to a "waiting room" consisting of two chairs squeezed into the overcrowded administration offices.
The only food available comes from a solitary outdoor vending machine, and aviation groups meet in hangars because that's the only space available.
Those scarce amenities will improve dramatically by this time next year, with the expected completion of a new administration building with a pilot lounge, a weather briefing room, a waiting area, an indoor vending machine area and a meeting room with seating for 45.
Airport manager Doug McNeeley said the new building will house more than airport administrators. About half of the 5,000-square-foot building will be public areas, with the rest occupied by staff members.
"The great thing about the new building is that it will offer things for the flying public," McNeeley said.
The $3.9 million structure, which has been several years in the planning, is being built with Hayward airport funds, said Morad Fakhrai, the city's public works director for engineering and transportation.
"The airport is an enterprise that collects rents and is run like a business. It's a full-service airport," he said. "The revenue it generates can only be spent at the airport."
Hayward's airport is a busy one, with more than 430 airplanes based there and more than 83,000 takeoffs and landings each year, according McNeeley.
The general aviation airport, which serves aircraft ranging from helicopters and smaller single-engine airplanes to larger corporate jets on two runways, was originally a World War II fighter base. "There's a lot of history here," McNeeley said. The new administration building will honor its past with a display case for airport photographs, artifacts and memorabilia.
In addition to the planned new building, a private company, Hayward Hangars, has built 18 new private hangars that opened last month. A dozen more are scheduled to go up later this year.
The demand for covered spaces for planes is high, with about 70 on the waiting list for hangars owned and operated by the city. Other area airports have a similar wait, McNeeley said.
Hayward Hangars' new box, or rectangular, spaces are larger than traditional T-shaped ones, with room for storage or a couch. The new hangars feature electric doors and Wi-Fi.
The city also rents out 207 T-hangars, and others are owned and rented out by private companies, including Hayward Hangars, Park Avion, Bud Field Aviation and APP Jetcenter.
The airport has plenty of outdoor tie-down spaces, McNeeley said. "It's not absolutely necessary for a plane to be in a hangar, but the paint will tend to fade over time," McNeely said. The price of an airplane varies widely, with $20,000 to $25,000 the starting point for the more popular used single-engine plane, he said.
"Some new ones sell for half a million dollars. To preserve your investment, some people prefer to have them in hangars," he said.
Hayward Hangar was attracted to the city's airport because it is in the busy Bay Area, where demand is high for hangar space, said Jim Altschul, the company's president. Hayward's airport also has a control tower and longer runways than some airfields, he said.
"This is one of the best general aviation airports in the San Francisco Bay Area," Altschul said. "The city of Hayward is really committed to the airport, and they're very cooperative."
Currently, the Hayward Executive Airport staff shares space with the Federal Aviation Administration in the control tower, with the city occupying the bottom two floors and the FAA the top three of the structure built in 1961.
"Both the city and FAA are out of space," McNeeley said.
Residents will be able to watch airplanes take off and land from a patio. The area will have a mounted speaker visitors can push to listen to communication between pilots and the control tower. "It will be a fun, learning thing. It will be a great place to take the kids and get people interested in the aviation world," McNeeley said.
He stressed that although the city is improving the airport, there are no plans to expand its size from the existing 543 acres. But the updated facilities will send a positive message about Hayward, he said.
"For people who fly in, the first impression of the community they get is right here," McNeeley said. "Obviously we want to put our best foot forward."