By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Those shiny new 787s take off from a place with roots in the Great Depression.
It’s a place named for a World War I pilot who flew with the Army Air Corps.
During World War II, it was an Army base providing air defense and training. It had its own baseball teams.
In the 1950s and early ’60s, it was an Air Force base. Military families called it home.
When the Boeing Co. came to Everett, Charles Lindbergh made a stop at Paine Field.
It has been a tourist attraction — from decades of the Paine Field Air Show to Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection and the Future of Flight Aviation Center today.
Always, Paine Field has been a big player in Snohomish County’s economic life and culture.
Steve Bertrand, a Cascade High School teacher and coach, tells its stories in a new pictorial book, “Paine Field,” part of the Arcadia Publishing “Images of Aviation” series.
“My father was a Boeing worker. We grew up going to the Paine Field Air Shows,” said Bertrand, who recalls huge crowds at the shows sponsored by the Everett Elks, Everett Jaycees and the Lynnwood Rotary Club. The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds were among demonstration squadrons that wowed crowds at Paine Field.
Bertrand, 59, likes today’s emphasis on aviation history, along with attractions offered through the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour. “You can go over to the Flying Heritage Collection and see vintage aircraft to rival anything that’s available in the world,” he said.
He has long been interested in local history. Last spring, he was among organizers of Cascade High School’s 50th anniversary. He is the author of another Arcadia book, “Mukilteo,” and has published poetry books and magazine articles.
At Cascade, where he went to school, Bertrand coaches track and cross country and teaches martial arts, other P.E. classes and guitar. “I taught English for 25 years and then started creating my own classes. I wanted to help people develop an interest in things they could continue for a lifetime,” he said.
Paine Field’s story started with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and money for new airports from the 1933 Federal Emergency Relief Act.
Built in 1936, the Snohomish County Airport was a Works Progress Administration project aimed at creating jobs. It was built to become one of 10 new “super airports” nationwide. According to the book and the Everett Public Library, the airport land south of Everett was once owned by George Pope Sr., of Pope &Talbot/Puget Mill Co.
A new name and mission came during World War II, when the airport served as a training and defense facility.
Military units operating out of Paine Field during the war included the 54th Pursuit Group, with Curtiss P-40s; the 20th and 55th Fighter Groups, which flew P-38s and P-51s in Europe; the 33rd Fighter Group, which flew P-40s in the Mediterranean and North Africa; the 329th Fighter Group, with P-38s; the 465th Army Air Corps Base Unit; the 1021st Air Service Squadron; the 24th Weather Squadron; and part of the 102nd Army Airways Communication Squadron.
With patriotism running high during World War II, the airport was renamed for a World War I flier, Topliff Olin Paine. The 1911 Everett High School graduate enlisted in 1917 and flew with the Army Air Corps. After World War I, Paine flew with the Air Mail Service.
After World War II, Willard’s Flying Service was operated at Paine Field by owner Daryl C. Willard.
During the Korean War, the airport was reactivated as Paine Air Force Base. It served as an alert-status base, with supersonic jet interceptors and tactical radar installations.
In 1966, the Boeing Co. changed everything when it announced it would build the 747 jumbo jet plant in Everett. Boeing brought a huge new role to Paine Field. By 1968, the Air Force had left.
Bertrand credits David Dilgard, a local historian at the Everett Public Library; Paine Field Snohomish County Airport Director David Waggoner; Sandy Ward of the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour; the University of Washington; local and regional historical societies, and dozens of others for help in creating the book, which took three years to research and write.
He particularly singles out Glenn Humann. Once a Civil Air Patrol cadet, Humann learned to fly at Willard’s Flying Service. He has kept eight airplanes at Paine Field. Humann served in the Washington Army National Guard and was president of the Washington Pilots Association’s Paine Field chapter. He is now a docent at the Flying Heritage Collection. “His life spans the entire history of Paine Field,” Bertrand said.
“For me, it’s like an adult Easter egg hunt. Go from person to person, everybody had a different egg. I see myself as a gatherer,” Bertrand said. “I wanted to include as many people and as many stories as possible.”
Today, debate continues over whether Paine Field should provide commercial air service, with Mukilteo and other cities opposing airline flights, and other interests and areas favoring them. Boeing and general aviation are now Paine Field’s lifeblood.
Whatever its future, the airport’s role in Snohomish County is major.
“I grew up in a city of smokestacks. As the mills disappeared, there has been aviation to pick things up,” Bertrand said. “It’s been a lifesaver for this community.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Paine Field,” by Steve K. Bertrand, is part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of Aviation” series. The book, $21.99, is available at Barnes &Noble, Costco in Everett, the Flying Heritage Collection, the Snohomish County Airport, other retailers or online at www.arcadiapublishing.com/9781467131421/Paine-Field.
Paine Field Aviation Day will be held 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. There will be vintage planes on display, opportunities for flights, flying school information and more. Admission $10, free for youth under 17. Information: www.painefield.com/198/Paine-Field-Aviation-Day.