Snohomish County Airport
|Serves||Snohomish County, Washington|
|Elevation AMSL||608 ft / 185 m|
Paine Field (IATA: PAE, ICAO: KPAE, FAA LID: PAE), also known as Snohomish County Airport, is a small international airport serving part of the Seattle metropolitan area in the U.S. state of Washington. It is located in unincorporated Snohomish County, between the cities of Mukilteo and Everett, about 30 miles (48 km) north of Seattle. PAE covers 1,315 acres (532 ha) of land.
The airport was built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration and began commercial service in 1939. It was named for Topliff Olin Paine in 1941, shortly before the Army Air Corps began occupation of Paine Field for military use. The airport briefly returned to civilian use in the late 1940s, before conversion into an air force base during the Korean War. In 1966, the Boeing Company selected Paine Field for the site of its Everett assembly plant as part of the Boeing 747 program. By the 1970s, the airport had grown into a hub for light aviation and manufacturing, lacking commercial service. The county government sought to begin commercial service at Paine Field as early as the 1980s, but was halted by opposition from neighboring cities. In September 2018, Paine Field will resume commercial service at a privately funded terminal served by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines.
It is served by a Federal Aviation Administration control tower, and has precision and non-precision instrument approaches available to pilots. It is included in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017–2021, in which it is categorized as a national reliever facility.
Paine Field has three runways: 16R-34L, 16L-34R and 11-29. 16R-34L, at 9,010 feet (2,750 m) in length, is suited for the majority of aircraft and sees occasional heavy traffic. It is in very good condition. Runway 16L-34R is 3,004 feet (916 m) in length, and suitable only for small aircraft. Its pavement is in fair condition, with a noticeable rise in elevation mid-field, when compared with the ends. Runway 11-29 is currently closed except for taxiing, and Boeing is leasing some of the runway space to park partially completed 787 aircraft.
The airport has 456 general aviation hangars, of which 326 are leased by the County, and 130 are "condominium" hangars. Wait time for a hangar currently ranges between 6 months and 5 years, depending on type.
Paine Field is also home to Aviation Technical Services (ATS), one of the nation's largest aviation maintenance facilities. ATS operate a 950,000-square-foot (88,000 m2) facility; formerly operated by Goodrich, and sold to ATS in the fall of 2007. ATS does 'heavy' checks for a number of airlines and cargo companies. According to their web page, they average 443 Aircraft Redeliveries each year.
Paine Field is home to four flight schools — Chinook Flight Simulations, Regal Air, Northway Aviation  and Everett Helicopters  — making it a popular destination for flight training. There are also a number of flying clubs on the field.
The FAA-operated control tower maintains limited hours, operating only between 7 AM and 9 PM local time. During times that the tower is operational, all runways are active, but after hours, only runway 16R-34L is open.
Paine Field was originally constructed in 1936 as a Works Progress Administration project. At the time of development, it was envisioned that the Airport would create jobs and economic growth in the region by becoming one of the ten new "super airports" around the country.
Paine Field was taken over by the U.S. Army Air Corps prior to entry into World War II as a patrol base, air defense base and fighter training base and was later controlled by the U.S. Army Air Forces. With the end of the war, the airfield began to be returned to the civilian control of Snohomish County. In 1947, as transition activities were still underway, military control of the then-Paine Army Airfield was transferred to the newly established U.S. Air Force, with the facility renamed Paine Field. Transfer of the property to the Snohomish County government was completed in 1948, however, the Air Force continued to maintain various Air Defense Command units at the airport as military tenants.
Before Snohomish County could start planning for the continued development of a "super airport", the United States was again involved in an armed conflict—this time in Korea and also the breakout of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. When the Pacific Northwest defense installations were reviewed House Representative Henry M. Jackson recommended more military presence in the area and Paine Field was reactivated as a military airbase.
Paine Field was returned to USAF control in 1951, renamed Paine Air Force Base, and placed under the jurisdiction of the Air Defense Command (ADC). While the county relinquished most of its commercial facilities to house USAF personnel, units and assets, the site did not have an exclusive military presence. The airfield remained a joint civil-military airport with the Air Force operating the control tower and other air traffic control facilities, while the county, in a shared use agreement, rented commercial lease hold areas to businesses such as Alaska Airlines. The 4753rd Air Base Squadron (later re-designated the 86th Air Base Squadron) was activated on the new Air Force base on February 1, 1952 as a placeholder unit.
Although inactive for only six years, significant military construction (MILCON) was necessary to bring the World War II training base up to postwar USAF standards. In 1951, additional land surrounding the Paine AFB site was appropriated for military facilities and extended runways. A 9,000-foot jet runway (Rwy 16/34) was constructed along with accompanying taxiways, permanent concrete buildings and other support facilities to replace the temporary wartime wooden structures that were viewed as substandard for a permanent USAF base. The 529th Air Defense Group was activated on February 16, 1953 and became the permanent host unit at Paine AFB until redesignated as the 326th Fighter Group in 1955.
Various Regular Air Force fighter-interceptor units and Air Force Reserve troop carrier units operated at Paine AFB from 1951 until the mid-1960s. In 1966, USAF identified Paine AFB for closure due to budgetary constraints caused by the cost of the Vietnam War. The by then-host unit, the 57th Fighter Group phased down operations with the departure of the interceptors and was inactivated in place on September 30, 1968. Paine AFB was inactivated the same date and the facility was returned to full civilian control as Paine Field / Snohomish County Airport. Today, the only remaining USAF activity at Paine Field is a non-flying tenant unit, the 215th Engineering Installation Squadron (215 EIS) of the Washington Air National Guard.
Paine AFB / Paine Field had also been under consideration in the 1960s by the U.S. Army Air Defense Command as one of several sites for the Sentinel Anti-Ballistic Missile System due to its central location to several other major military bases and defense industries in the Puget Sound Region. That program was eventually dropped in favor of the limited Safeguard system.
On July 25, 1966, Boeing announced that it would build the Boeing 747, a jet airliner capable of carrying nearly twice as many passengers as previous models. To build the giant jet, Boeing had to construct a facility large enough to handle the world's largest commercial jetliner. Land just north of Paine Field was chosen to construct the new facilities, including some development on the airport itself. Both the local government and the FAA concurred with the development. Work on the massive building began in August 1966 and the first employees arrived in early 1967. The 747 made its first flight at Paine Field on February 9, 1969.
In late 2005, construction of the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour building was completed. The project, formerly known as the National Flight Interpretive Center, includes the Boeing factory tour as well as a gallery that highlights the newest developments in aviation, including both parts and components of airplanes manufactured by Airbus and Boeing. The facility was opened to private audience on December 16, 2005, and the following day the facility was open to the public. The Museum of Flight also has a restoration center at the airport's main gate; located further south is the Me 262 Project. Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Collection has a large, refurbished hangar at the south end of the field, which opened as a museum June 2008. Historic Flight Foundation also houses and maintains early military aircraft.
The use of Paine Field for commercial air service is highly controversial.
Several local governments have adopted resolutions against the use of Paine Field for commercial flights including Snohomish County (the airport's operator), the neighboring cities of Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, and Woodway. Additionally, a local citizens group called "Save Our Communities" has worked to oppose any commercial flights at the airport.
Notably, the city of Everett, the largest in the county and the county seat, has adopted a resolution in favor of the use of Paine Field for commercial air service.
The use and expansion of the airport is currently governed by an agreement that was forged during 1978–1979 negotiations, called the Mediated Role Determination (MRD). The MRD recommends the role of Paine Field to be as a general aviation and aerospace manufacturing airport, while discouraging other types of activities including supplemental/charter air passenger service. In 2005, Snohomish County commissioned a panel to review the MRD. That panel recommended that the MRD "should not be ratified or revised, but should be retired as a policy document". In June 2008, the Snohomish County Council rejected the findings of its panel, and as in 1989, 1992, and 2001, restated its opposition to commercial air passenger services operating from Paine Field with this resolution:
Reaffirm our county's commitment to preserving the existing general aviation role of Paine Field, and [to] pursue any and all lawful and appropriate means to discourage any action that would facilitate, directly or indirectly, use of Paine Field for scheduled air passenger service or air cargo service, which may include an interlocal agreement.
Further reflecting its opposition to commercial air service, Snohomish County has adopted a policy of not spending funds to subsidize airlines or to pay for the infrastructure needed to support commercial air service.
In 2008, two airlines, Allegiant Air and Horizon Air, expressed interest in establishing passenger flights to Paine Field to the airport authority. In May 2008, in response to these requests, the Chairman of the Snohomish County Council sent Allegiant Air a letter stating their opposition to the request to start air service. The FAA wrote to the airport authority in June 2008 to reiterate that as a recipient of federal FAA grants, the County may not prohibit commercial aeronautical activities offering services to the public. If the County blocked commercial flights, it would risk an enforcement action under Federal Aviation Regulation 16.
The airport completed a draft environmental assessment of the effects of commercial aviation at Paine Field in December 2009, and the public comment period ended on February 5, 2010. Opposition to Paine Field hosting commercial air service was overwhelming in meetings held for comments on the draft environmental assessment. The neighboring city of Mukilteo hired an aviation attorney to represent the interests of the city during the environmental assessment process and promised to "make it time consuming, expensive and stretch it out. We'll fight the terminal legally."
On December 4, 2012, the FAA concluded that commercial airplanes could fly out of Paine Field without significantly adding to local noise and traffic. The findings cleared the way for commercial operations along with construction of a terminal building. On February 5, 2013, the cities of Edmonds and Mukilteo, along with two individuals, filed notice with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that they intend to challenge the results of the Environmental Assessment.
On July 15, 2013, Allegiant Air refused the county's terms to operate a terminal at Paine.
In June 2014, New York-based Propeller Investments asked Snohomish County to start discussions leading to their construction of a terminal and parking facility at Paine Field. Propeller Investments would shoulder the risk — leasing land from the airport, financing terminal construction and finding tenant airlines. On March 2, 2015, Snohomish County approved a lease-option agreement that gave Propeller Airports three years to carry out preliminary design work, environmental studies and to obtain permits needed to construct a proposed two-gate passenger terminal. In turn, Snohomish County would receive about $429,000 per year in rent plus a share of flight and parking revenues.
On March 4, 2016, a federal court denied an appeal by the City of Mukilteo and others citizens groups to prevent commercial flights at Paine Field.
Ground was broken for the passenger terminal on June 5, 2017. The 30,000 square foot building will have two gates and will be capable of handling about 16 flights per day. The operator, Propeller Airports, has agreed to limit early-morning and late-night commercial flights to reduce noise impacts on Mukilteo and nearby residential areas.
When the passenger terminal opens in September 2018 it will have service from two airlines and will already operate at its full capacity. In May 2017, Alaska Airlines was the first to announce it would operate from Paine Field saying it would fly 9 daily flights with a mix of mainline and regional jets. In January 2018, Alaska announced that instead all flights from Everett would be operated by its regional subsidiary, Horizon Air using the Embraer 175 regional jet, but that it would be offer more flights each day. Alaska plans 13 daily flights to several west coast destinations: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. United Airlines announced on August 10, 2017 that six flights a day will be operated to its hubs in Denver and San Francisco.
|Alaska Airlines||Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Portland (OR), San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA)|||
|United Express||Denver, San Francisco|||
|Atlas Air||Charleston (SC), Nagoya–Centrair, Wichita–McConnell AFB|
Paine Field's future passenger terminal is located west of the intersection of Airport Road and 100th Street SW. Airport Road continues south towards State Route 99 and Interstate 5, the region's two primary north–south highways, and north towards State Route 526. State Route 526, a short freeway spur, connects the Paine Field area to Mukilteo and Everett via Interstate 5 and Evergreen Way.
Community Transit, the county-wide public transit system, plans to operate its Swift Green Line on Airport Road beginning in early 2019, serving the Paine Field terminal with bus rapid transit service. Sound Transit, the regional transit system, also plans to build a Link light rail extension to Everett in 2036, with a stop in the Paine Field area.
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