Op-Ed: Paine Field expansion impacts Shoreline and North King County

Monday, August 13, 2018

Antonov AN-225 on the taxiway, copyright, Marc Weinberg

Text and photos by Marc Weinberg

During the 1970’s and 80’s I was an active pilot often flying in and out of Paine Field, Everett. During that time there was an effort by Snohomish County to enlarge the facilities and incorporate commercial aviation at the field. As you can imagine there were many homeowners and local businesses who were concerned about this potential development.

There was a community effort to reach an agreement. I served as Chairman of the Paine Field Mediation Team, and the Steering Committee, as well as the Community Council consisting of more than a dozen users of the field from flight service companies to Boeing.

Over several years we hammered out a plan, approved by the Snohomish County Planning Commission that confirmed that the airport would remain a ‘general aviation’ facility and not serve “commercial flights”. This gave the green light to the thousands of homes and businesses that have been developed along the Mukilteo Speedway.

If you’ve been keeping up with media reports you know that this agreement declared 35 plus years ago has been overturned and passenger flights were expected to begin in the fall of 2018. This has been delayed by the FAA because Alaska Airline, Southwest and United will bring more passengers than originally approved in the 2012 environmental impact assessment.

Paine Field Boeing Facility at night, copyright, Marc Weinberg

The FAA has required a new review because of increased operation by more airlines and a different fleet mix, which in fact would double those previously anticipated.

The three airlines mentioned plan to have 24 flights per day or 48 take-offs and landings accounting for about 1,000 passengers. If service demand increases Alaska could bring in their 737 fleet which seats up to 189 passengers, but even without the Alaska expansion, operations could account for over 2,000 passengers per day.

Residents north of the Everett area appear to be looking forward to having an alternative to driving to SeaTac, but many residents and merchants are greatly concerned about an increase of traffic, road congestion and overflight noise. Mukilteo brought a law suit the Washington State Supreme Court refused to hear.

If you are concerned about the noise of overflights in your area, be alert for another opportunity to voice your opinion in the coming months as the FAA is required to provide a 30 day public comment period.

There are several ‘real time flight tracking Apps’ that are easy to use. For example: ‘flight tracker and flight aware’. Each can provide information about the airline, altitude, speed, etc. which is a handy detailed description that you can use to call the ‘noise complaint” hot line at 425-388-5125 option 4. In addition, of course, you can track your flight information when traveling. 

The Antonov An-225 Mriya is a strategic airlift cargo aircraft
built in the Ukraine in the 1980s, copyright, Marc Weinberg

The longest main runway is virtually North/South which puts both departing and landing flights (depending on the wind) in our direction. There are noise abatement procedures if the airport and the pilot choose to follow them.

Currently the airport is classified as a national reliever facility. Could it become an international airport and what would that mean in addition to the current direction of commercial flights? I’m sure the residents near SeaTac Airport would have an answer.

Yes there are some travel benefits, but at the expense of our largely residential community. We all know that growth and change are inevitable, but how it occurs is up to each of us to determine.

Get involved as many of us did nearly 40 years ago because as you can see nothing is forever and commitments can be broken.


Tracy Tallman,  August 13, 2018 at 10:19 AM  

Thanks Marc for this information. I've been woken up a couple of nights by noisy planes flying over (open windows) in the middle of the night. I've often idly wondered if I could find out why a particular plane is so noisy and why some are noisier than others. Some sound like they are about to land in Shoreline. Since the SeaTac flights come overhead it seems as though Paine Field flights would need to go the other direction.

Anonymous,  August 13, 2018 at 12:11 PM  

Suck it up Mukilteo. Burien/Normandy Park fought the 3rd runway at Sea-Tac to no avail. Shoreline is in the flight path for all the North to South landings at Sea-Tac. Paine Field should be open to commercial flights - if you think you should be excused from sharing the burden of overall growth in the country, think again. And then get those noise-cancelling headphones that the rest of us use.(those of you who enjoy your small private planes, please know we on the ground hear them!)

Anonymous,  August 14, 2018 at 9:35 PM  

1. Since the original proposal, the airlines interested have moved to quieter planes. This is part of the reason why the FAA is reviewing it again. These planes aren't the rust buckets that many of us grew up hearing (I lived near JFK in the 60s). Alaska and United Airlines plan to use Embraer 175s, which are extremely quiet; for Southwest Airlines, Boeing 737s. The noisy planes are the Dreamlifters that fly low at 2-3 a.m. bringing Dreamliner parts in.
2. The flight paths are under the purview of the FAA and extend for about 10 miles around the airport. The runways are north/south oriented, putting the traffic patterns very close to Sea-Tac and Boeing Field…it's called the "string of pearls"…Sea-Tac’s pattern has been extended to Shoreline due to it being near capacity. Sea-Tac expects to max out in 7-8 years.
3. The new commercial air activity will only be 0.4% of what runs at Paine already. Boeing is accounts for about 5% (jets), while general aviation 95%-which IMO is the noisiest, I live near there and they're the ones I hear the loudest!
4. Paine Field’s main runway is operating at about 30% of capacity. However, developable land is problematic due to the terrain and wetlands issues.

Terry O August 14, 2018 at 10:09 PM  

Thank you Marc for reminding people about the Planning Commission agreement that led to the development of homes, apartments, communities, schools and neighborhoods in the Paine Field area. Sadly, the county and airlines only see dollar signs and have ignored the fact that these neighborhoods do not have the infrastructure to support a commercial airport. Forgotten are those of us taxpayers/homeowners whose property values, and enjoyment of our homes, will decline as a result of that broken promise.

Terry O August 14, 2018 at 10:20 PM  

Anonymous - Burien and Normandy Park fought against an adding a runway to a commercial airport that had been established and operating as a commercial airport for more than 50 years. That is very different than unilaterally tossing out a growth planning agreement and converting a general aviation facility into a commercial airport.

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