By Debra Smith Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — Officials wanted to hear from the public on the potential impact of commercial flights at Snohomish County-owned Paine Field.
Boy, did they get what they asked for.
Monday night dozens of people filled an auditorium at Meadowdale High School at the first of three public hearings.
While some people testified that they liked the convenience of local air service and the economic benefits such service would bring, most in the room seemed more concerned about declining home values, noise and traffic.
“There’s a difference between Mukilteo and SeaTac,” Kevin Wilson said. “I might be able to get on a plane and go to Vegas faster but that will also diminish the value of my house.”
Wilson, who lives in Mukilteo, suggested a class-action lawsuit might be in order. That comment brought hearty applause.
At several points, the hearing examiner had to remind the crowd not to heckle people who expressed support for commercial service.
“We moved out here for the quality of life, and we want to keep it that way,” Christine McCroskey of Lynnwood said.
Federal Aviation Administration officials were gathering comment on a draft environmental assessment, released in December, which looked at what would happen if two commercial airlines scheduled flights from Paine Field, located south of Everett. An FAA grant paid for the $450,000 environmental study.
Horizon Airlines of Seattle has said it wants to fly four times a day to Portland, Ore., and twice a day to Spokane, using 75-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplanes on both routes. Allegiant Air of Las Vegas has said it plans to fly twice a week to Las Vegas, using 150-seat MD83 jet aircraft. Service could begin as early as this year.
The assessment, headed by consultant Barnard Dunkelberg &Co. of Tulsa, Okla., concludes there would be no significant impact by introducing about 8,000 commercial flights a year at Paine Field.
The airport now logs 144,000 annual flights, mostly by Boeing, its suppliers and private aircraft.
The public hearing began with the conclusions of the draft assessment, which explored more than 20 potential impacts to the area surrounding Paine Field, including noise, light emissions and traffic.
Ryk Dunkelberg, a representative for the consultant, presented data that showed commercial flights, if added, would make up about 5 percent of air traffic from Paine Field by 2016.
Despite the findings, many living around Paine Field have continued to vehemently oppose expanding air service. The cities of Mukilteo, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Woodway have approved resolutions opposing passenger flights at the airport.
At the hearing, many of those who testified expressed concern that the draft examined relatively limited service from two carriers. They worried that actual service could be far greater, since federal law does not allow the county to turn away other commercial carriers or even specify the types of planes or hours of operation.
County officials expect to hear back from the FAA in March. The response will tell the county whether the agency thinks the assessment is adequate, or needs more work.
The FAA also will accept written comment by regular mail and e-mail, and has extended the deadline until Feb. 5. Submit by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Mail to Cayla Morgan, Environmental Protection Specialist, Seattle Airports District Office, Federal Aviation Administration, 1601 Lind Ave. SW, Renton, WA 98057-3356, or Dave Waggoner, Director, Snohomish County Airport, 3220 100th St. SW, Suite A, Everett, WA 98204.
Noah Haglund contributed to this report.
Timeline of the Paine Field debate
* A Snohomish County study concludes passenger flights at Paine Field would be good for the county’s economy. The airport includes the possibility of commercial air service in its estimates for future air traffic.
* The study and air traffic estimates are discussed in presentations to groups by airport officials, setting off opposition to passenger flights in surrounding communities.
* County Executive Aaron Reardon assembles a panel of officials and businesspeople to review a 1970s agreement between the county and cities aimed at discouraging commercial flights.
* The panel’s 188-page report concludes that the agreement can’t be used to limit passenger flights at the airport, but that airport operators are under no obligation to pay for improvements for airlines.
* Passenger service supporters, primarily in the business community, begin to organize and speak up.
* Allegiant Air of Las Vegas and Horizon Air of Seattle send letters to Snohomish County indicating interest in operating flights at Paine Field.
* Mukilteo hires Strategies 360, a Seattle consulting firm, to fight the plans by the airlines.
* Boeing says commercial flights would not interfere with its operations at the airport.
* A study released in December finds that commercial airline service at Paine Field would not significantly pollute the air or clog traffic.