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 ca**********@fa*.gov or ai******************@sn***.org. Official comment period runs through Feb 15th, 2010.
* Video from KING 5
* Story from Everett Herald with time line
* Read the full text of the “Commercial Air Service Environmental Assessment”