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Is Seattle Ready for a Second Airport?

Photo I took on one of my visits to KPAE. Would the Dreamlifter like some company from airlines?

Photo I took on one of my visits to KPAE. Would the Dreamlifter like some company from airlines?

Last night I attended a  meeting for the public to comment on commercial air travel starting at Paine Field (KPAE) located in Everett, WA. KPAE is about 20 miles north of downtown Seattle and about 40 miles north of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and it would provide the Seattle area with a second option for flights.

KPAE is best known for where the Boeing 777, 787, 747 and 767 are made. It currently does not have any commercial service, but obviously has a runway capable of handling it.

I have a personal attachment to this story (other than being an aviation nerd). I recently bought a house that is right in the flight path of KPAE. I realize this is a negative to some people, but I very much enjoy catching a glimpse of a Dreamlifter or new Boeing 787 flying over. I would love sitting out on a summer day watching additional aircraft fly over, but I realize I am in the minority. Looking at all the positives and negatives, I am very much in favor of commercial flights starting at KPAE.

Two airlines are the main supporters for the FAA to amend the operation regulations for KPAE and allow scheduled commercial service: Horizon Air and Allegiant Air.

Horizon Air is looking to start with operating four times per day to Portland, OR and twice per day to Spokane, WA using 75-seat Bombarider Q400 turboprop airplanes, which are some of the quietest in the industry.  Horizon is planning to increase to six flights per day by 2016 and currently have no plans for adding any additional cities.

Allegiant Air is looking to provide a flight to Las Vegas, NV twice per week using 150-seat MD83 aircraft. Allegiant is planning to increase to around ten flights per week by 2016.

Currently KPAE sees about 150,800 operations (take offs or landings) per year. With the addition of Horizon and Allegent flights, those operations would only increase by a little less than 5,000 per year and  by 8,000 in 2016. These are rough estimates done by the review committee and don’t take into account if the airlines provide more flights than they are planning or if other airlines start flying out of KPAE.

There were about 40 citizens that spoke at the meeting, with over 100 in attendance. It was obvious that the majority of the people there were strongly against commercial flights and they had no problem voicing their strong opinions. Some people brought up some interesting points and at times I wish it was more of a conversation than people just giving their one-sided opinions. Some of the most common points against commercial flights at KPAE:

* It will increase noise. I personally understand this, as I said I live under the flight path. But I already have Boeing 747’s, 777’s (and soon 787’s) flying overhead. The addition of a Q400 and MD83 will be minimal. I grew up under the flight path of a military base and constantly had planes flying over at very low altitude. After a while it is something you don’t even notice and it shouldn’t be something to lower a person’s quality of life.

* The airport will grow much larger, causing problems. Some fear that KPAE could grow as large as SEA, but I don’t think there is the demand. Some cited Allegiant growing so rapidly at Bellingham, WA.  However Bellingham, WA is just miles from Canada and provides an airport option for two large cities. Sabrina LoPiccol with Allegiant media relations pointed out to me, “Bellingham is a truly unique market in our system and much of its growth is due to its proximity to Canada and more specifically the major metro area of Vancouver.”

* This will lower house values. Again, I could be a victim of this too. People compared the lower house values and the low-quality surrounding the airport.  I do not see KPAE getting large like SEA. Snohomish County (the county that KPAE is in) has no interest in lowering housing values or creating a “slum” around the airport. Many people  said they were promised that KPAE would never have commercial flights when they bought their homes. It was mentioned when I bought my house, but I know the reality and when buying a house in the area of a major airport, there is a chance it will grow.

Even if this is approved and commercial service can start at KPAE, there is no guarantee they will. I spoke with Jen Boyer at Horizon and she pointed out they started showing interest in October 2008 when the economy was a little different. She told me, “When we have clarity on the environmental study and the terminal we will re-assess the situation in light of an economy that is very different than it was more than a year ago and also against other competing opportunities for the limited number of aircraft we have available to start new service.”

Most of the complaints seemed to be concerned about the individual and not about the community as a whole. Do I want my house value to drop? Of course not. But am I willing to let my value drop for the benefit of the greater good of the region? Yes, I am. When any NIMBY goes in by someone’s backyard (powerplant, jail, train tracks, interstate, etc.) of course there are going to be people against it. But all these things are needed for a proper running society and some of us need to make sacrifices.

Seattle is a well-known city and has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. SEA is south of Seattle and the population has grown very much to the north. Most major cities or major metropolitan areas have multiple airport choices and for the common good, competition, and more flight options. I hope Horizon Air and Allegiant flights will be starting soon from KPAE.

I would love to hear your opinion and if you want the official people making this decision to hear you, email them at cayla.morgan@faa.gov or airserviceeacomments@snoco.org. Official comment period runs through Feb 15th, 2010.

More Information:
* Video from KING 5
* Story from Everett Herald with time line
* Read the full text of the “Commercial Air Service Environmental Assessment”

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25 comments to Is Seattle Ready for a Second Airport?

  • Kate

    We live less than 10 minutes away from SEATAC (but not really in the major flight line) and I too love seeing and hearing airplanes in the sky. I think an airport in Everett would be a great service to Northenders and lessen I-5 traffic for us Southenders. I am in support!

  • Hank Madrigal

    Will they offer shuttle service to/from SEA to/from KPAE?

    • Hello Hank!

      I would imagine some company will provide shuttle service between KPAE and SEA. I talked to Horizon and they said they will not provide any sort of shuttle service.

      Hmm, wonder if Kenmore Air would be interested. I will ask them. Thanks for the question.

      David

  • Dan

    I live in Seattle so I know I’m less “affected” by this, but I think it’d be foolish to not increase the amount of non-automobile traffic hubs near Seattle, especially adding one NORTH of Seattle. This will reduce traffic to and from SEATAC, overall distance traveled to get to certain locations, and the speed at which people can get to far away locations. Those things thusly reduce exhaust emissions and clean up our air and reduce or dependance on foreign oil. I believe the global benefits significantly outweigh the small downfalls. If this airport was near my house, would I protest? Probably not, living in an urban center it’d be foolish of me not to think it’s going to be noisy here. Too bad this isn’t being viewed the same way our new light rail is, where being near it means houses go up in value because they’re near a transportation hub.

  • Jessica

    I’m for it. This is another way we can help our economy and get more people jobs. Not to mention I live in North Seattle and would love a closer option than SeaTac. Considering I’d have to take 2 buses just to get to the light rail, then once I arrived at the airport, it’s a huge hike to the terminal. We live in a big city and airports, traffic and noise are apart of that. If we’re going to move forward then things like this have to happen.

  • Temo

    It’s interesting how so many adults can behave like children. When I first heard about this proposal, I became very excited! Though I do not travel to Spokane very often, Portland and Vegas are great destinations, and would love to hop on a plane without having to go all the way down to SEATAC. I’m with you, a little sacrifice is needed for the greater good of a community.

  • Don’t expect a shuttle between SEA and PAE by air, unless someone somehow magically invents a new way to make such a short route profitable. The shorter the distance, the more the route loses out to ground transportation options. For PAE, connections by Horizon to Portland and Spokane may compete with the option to drive. Flights by Allegiant to their hub in Las Vegas are a reasonable option for domestic travel since they fly nationwide from there. And every major airline serves Vegas too.

    It’s important to establish service with routes your local market will sustain for the airlines. Palmdale, California failed to do that in 2007 when they chose to subsidize a United Express route to San Francisco and shut out a competing Delta Connection proposed route to Salt Lake City. (Both were to be operated by SkyWest regional jets.) They were thinking of connections to the Pacific Rim. But it wasn’t popular because it was the wrong direction for most domestic travel. Palmdale residents continued to use Burbank and LAX for domestic travel. United canceled the route when the 1 year subsidy ended – Palmdale once again had no airline service. Lesson learned: make the domestic routes work first.

    • Hey Ian!

      Thanks for your comment. We do have a small, mostly seaplane-based, airline called Kenmore Air here (http://www.kenmoreair.com). I just wrote my contact there to see if they are talking about providing any short service. Most likely the average person wouldn’t pay, but business travelers might be willing.

      I really think this will succeed. Back when housing prices were crazy people moved north. The 30 miles north of Seattle has grown so much and no one likes to have to drive through downtown Seattle to get to SEA. I live about 20 miles north of SEA and it can take 20min (only at 3am) up to over an hour. I know there are many people who would be willing to pay more to fly out of KPAE, but most likely the fares will be cheaper than from SEA.

      People seem more concerned this will be too successful and the airport will get too big. I doubt that, I don’t think there is that big of a demand, but if it does, good for it! That means it is successfully providing a service that people want!

      I for one would LOVE to take the Allegiant flight from KPAE to Vegas for a weekend!

      David
      AirlineReporter.com

      • Jack

        If kenmore air offers a service from KPAE to SEA would the passengers be able to avoid going through security and checking in again? If so I assume many people would pay for the flight. I have flown out of spokane a few times and nice part about going to a smaller airport that only flies a few airlines to a few location is that you dont have to deal with long lines at check in and security add that to the drive time from paine field to seatac (any where from 45minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic) you could save 3 hours off of your trip.

        • Hello Jack and Ian! I heard back from Craig O’Neil at Kenmore Air and he said they are not looking to provide flights between KPAE and SEA. Due to the great costs needed to fly into SEA, they have avoided flying there. Although he said they might look into other flights from KPAE (like to the San Juans) in the future.

          David
          AirlineReporter.com

  • Patrick

    This is at least the second study, including one for the city of Everett by Lane (who I believe opposed Sea-Tac’s third runway), showing that commercial air service at Paine Field would have minimal effects on the surrounding area well into the future because the demand does not exist. I grew up 5 minutes from KPAE and now live in the flight path and aircraft noise is never an issue. Adding another 5% or even 10% to daily operations will go virtually unnoticed.

    The most interesting thing about this issue is most of the NIMBYs work for Boeing or the commercial aviation industy which is responsible for the majority of the noise in the area. Their continued success relies on increased aviation traffic at Paine Field.

    If you don’t like sirens, don’t move next to hospital. If you don’t like planes, don’t move next to an airport…especially not in the third largest county in the state.

    • It was odd because more than one person at the meeting last night made a comment how they were promised KPAE would not have commercial flights. I feel bad if someone told them that, but common sense says that a major airport, able to handle the AN-225 landing (much bigger than the 747) in a region that desires more travel options seems like a high risk.

      When I was looking at buying my current house a few months back and saw a B757 for UPS flying over, it was a done deal for me :). The one negative side is I have bumped the wall a few times rushing out to view a Dreamlifter flying over.

      David
      AirlineReporter.com

  • Gordon Werner

    the airport has been there since what? 1936 or so? Boeing has been there since the 1960s? Maybe people should have thought about that before buying a house near an active airport that has an AIRPLANE FACTORY at it.

  • Josh

    “Of course not. But am I willing to let my value drop for the benefit of the greater good of the region?”

    You sound like a hippy liberal. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but if folks in the area are not willing to sacrifice (which should be their right as an american) how does something like that get decided? This seems even more relevant if they were promised no commercial flights. What other promises being made now will be broken later?

    • Dan

      No one saying that not being willing to sacrifice isn’t they’re right. It is, however, selfish, short-sighted, and basically how the Seattle area got itself into this traffic mess it is in now (no one is willing to sacrifice, so we all suffer).

      “how does something like that get decided?”
      Something like this basically gets decided like this: Benefit > Cost, yes? Then execute plan, which you might notice isn’t a very hippy mentality at all. You know what is hippy/liberal though, saving the habitat for a few despite the capitalist benefit for the rest of us.

  • jennywa

    I live on Whidbey Island which is north of Seattle. I would absolutely take a flight out of Paine Field instead of driving all the way to SeaTac. I often fly to Tucson. Now I would be able to go through Las Vegas.

  • Brian

    Promises made by real estate agents are made to sell properties. Promises made by government employees or elected officials who aren’t empowered to make them are worthless. If property buyers believe them, it’s unfortunate, but they are not binding even in writing (although they can be fodder for lawsuits). I live near railroad tracks which are currently unused and hear the same “I was promised they’d be converted to a trail” argument all the time. If you bought near a RR or airport, it was up to you to assess the risk of future uses and what they may or may not be.

  • […] destination I am disappointed not to see is Paine Field. As I discussed earlier in the year, Allegiant Air and Horizon Air were looking to fly into Paine Field, which is located about 20 miles north of Seattle. At this point, everyone is still waiting and no […]

  • […] the blog, I have covered Allegiant quite a bit. I have looked at the possibility of them starting flights from Paine Field, talked about their Boeing 757′s and have explored their recent growth. However, I have never […]

  • […] the blog, I have covered Allegiant quite a bit. I have looked at the possibility of them starting flights from Paine Field, talked about their Boeing 757′s and have explored their recent growth. However, I have never […]

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  • […] PAINE FIELD STORIES: * Is Seattle Ready for a Second Airport? * Opinion: Commercial Flights Should Commence at Paine […]

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