Should Paine Field go commercial? County debates once again



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Posted on January 4, 2010 at 3:58 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 5 at 9:02 PM

EVERETT, Wash. - Today it's quiet around Everett's Paine Field.  And that's the way many of the airport's neighbors like it.  

Paine Field is a place of contrasts.  This one-time Air Force base hosts the world's biggest aerospace company, Boeing.  Boeing's built  the world's biggest building on Paine's periphery, and it's Boeing's giant Everett plant that builds what was the world's biggest passenger jet, the 747. And just for the record,  Paine Field has also played host to the world's biggest plane during air shows,  the Russian built  Antonov 225.

But while Paine is synonymous with BIG on so many levels, it's what Paine Field isn't that also stands out.  If you want to catch a flight to Paris or Prineville, forget it. Special passenger flights will leave from Paine on occasion, but there's nothing scheduled, and again, that's the way a lot of the neighbors like it.

For neighbor Vern Ashbrenner, who lives west of the flight path north of the airport,  turning Paine into the "Sea-Tac of the North" would violate his understanding of a longstanding  agreement that was designed to keep Paine as an industrial and general aviation airport . For years, neighbors and other opponents of commercial air service banded together as the Save Our Communities organization to keep it that way.

But business interests in the county are pushing to open Paine up to as many as 8,000 scheduled flights a year.  Both Horizon and Allegiant are expressing interest in serving Portland, Spokane and Las Vegas out of the airport.  Can economic development in Snohomish County get to the next level, if executives and customers all have to navigate hair raising traffic through Seattle in order to get to a flight out of Sea-Tac, which is well over an hour away even when traffic is flowing?

How effectively opponents can fight commercial flights may partly depend on three public hearings with the FAA. The first meeting was Monday night at 6 p.m. The next one is at Meadowdale High School on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at the PUD auditorium in Everett, and a third meeting is on Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Lynnwood Convention Center*. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has changed the location of the third public hearing scheduled to accept comments on the draft environmental assessment pertaining to two proposals for commercial air service at Snohomish County's Paine Field Airport.

*Change of location (as of 01/05/10)

The Jan. 21 public hearing will now be held at Kamiak High School, 10801 Harbour Pointe Boulevard, Mukilteo, instead of the Lynnwood Convention Center. The public hearing will still begin at 6 p.m. and follow formats used during the Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 hearings.