Commercial air service from Paine Field is a logical outgrowth of the need for flights to serve Snohomish County’s population and employment bases.
The Federal Aviation Administration moved commercial air service closer to a reality with a “Finding of No Significant Impact” for noise and pollution and related airport topics.
The final decision for the Everett airport truly rests with the airlines that will decide if they see a market for regular service. For now, the likely candidates are Allegiant Air and Alaska Airlines, which does not want to be trumped by another airline.
FAA procedural steps remain to add Paine Field to the operational specifications of the interested airlines and the planes they might use, and to check the boxes on runways, safety and planning. This is a process, not a barrier for an airport that already serves business customers, including Boeing, and a robust general-aviation sector.
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Opposition to commercial service is long-standing in the communities that were not around when the air field was built. Expect the FAA action to inspire legal and administrative challenges, but the reality is that Paine Field exists, functions well, and commercial air service would barely dent its operating capacity.
Snohomish County has also been spending the federal payments over the decades to maintain the airport. Refuse legally and environmentally permissible service, and the money might disappear.
The only sticking point is who might pay to build the two-gate passenger terminal needed to house customers and required federal Transportation Security Administration facilities.
Will Paine Field compete with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport? No, and that is not the point.
Will it be a welcome alternative for flights to Portland, Spokane and Las Vegas for North Sound residents? One airline, perhaps two, appear willing to take that bet.