New commercial flights out of Paine Field in Snohomish County will benefit the entire region.
Last week’s opening of a commercial airline terminal at Everett’s Paine Field is doubly worth celebrating. For people in the fast-growing communities north of Seattle, air travel’s balance between the tedious and the marvelous will tip toward the latter. For travelers throughout the Puget Sound area, the new service will begin to relieve pressure on an increasingly congested Sea-Tac International Airport.
Paine Field will immediately become Washington state’s third busiest commercial airport, behind Sea-Tac and Spokane International — with a projected 656,000 passenger boardings this year. Sea-Tac’s volume is 40 times larger, but Paine Field will improve the efficiency and convenience of Seattle-area air travel in much the same way that San Francisco and Los Angeles benefit from commercial airports in San Jose and Orange County.
Objections relating to noise and traffic invariably greet proposals to open or expand airports, and plans for commercial air service at Paine Field were no different. But opponents were in a weak position.
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Noise? Paine Field opened in 1936, predating most nearby development. It is already a busy airport for private aviation, with 300 flights a day. The Federal Aviation Administration concluded last September that the addition of commercial jets would result in no significant increase in noise for neighboring communities.
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Traffic? The Port of Seattle estimates that every day, 4,700 passengers from Snohomish County grind their way through Seattle’s gridlock to catch or meet flights at Sea-Tac. Many of those are now being diverted to Paine Field, where Alaska Airlines offers daily connections to eight cities. United Airlines plans to inaugurate service at the end of the month. For Snohomish County residents, getting to an airport is now a matter of minutes, not potentially hours. Whether measured in carbon, congestion or aggravation, Paine Field’s effect on surface transportation systems will be positive.
Indeed, it would be hard to find a location better suited to commercial aviation than Paine Field. Boeing has been building and testing jet aircraft there for more than half a century. Paine Field is home to several world-class aviation museums. It was originally developed by the Works Project Administration as a commercial airfield — nearly a decade before commercial service at Sea-Tac began.
As for the future, the communities, businesses and traveling public of Snohomish County stand to gain the increased opportunities and improved efficiencies that will follow more convenient commercial air service. It’s high time local air service took wing in an area so tightly tied to aviation.