Paine Field commercial air service public hearing gathers a full house

  • Thu Jan 21st, 2010 10:45pm
  • News

By Oscar Halpert Herald Writer

MUKILTEO — If this had been a student theater performance, it would have been a sellout.

Instead, the 550-plus people who showed up at the Kamiak High School Performing Arts Center on Thursday night — a number that exceeded the 500-person capacity — saw a procession of speakers testify before Federal Aviation Administration officials about the potential impacts of commercial flights at the Snohomish County-owned Paine Field.

One man said he used to live close to Sea-Tac International Airport but moved to Snohomish County after 20 years to get away from jet traffic.

He took issue with the idea that noise or pollution from jet engines could be kept within limits that are not harmful.

“The environmental assessment process is totally flawed,” said former Mukilteo City Councilwoman Cathy Reese.

The third — and final — public hearing was held to gather comment on a December draft environmental assessment on the potential impacts that could result if two commercial carriers begin regular passenger service from Paine Field, southwest of Everett.

Horizon Airlines of Seattle has said it would like to fly 75-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplanes four times a day to Portland, Ore., and twice a day to Spokane. Allegiant Air of Las Vegas has said it plans to fly twice a week to Las Vegas, using 150-seat McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft. Service could begin as early as this year.

Kelly Thomas of Mukilteo said she arrived without an opinion.

“Horizon Air doesn’t affect me much, but I like to go to Vegas,” she said. “It’s just a nice alternative to have Allegiant Air here, but we didn’t want to be another Sea-Tac.”

A consultant’s assessment said there would be no significant negative impacts from about 8,000 commercial flights a year at the airport.

Most speakers said they oppose adding commercial flights to the airport.

Many said they doubted whether the process was impartial and transparent enough and worried about pollution and noise. Others said once the commercial flight door is ajar, it will eventually open all the way.

Supporters have said the flights could boost the economy and save people a long drive to Sea-Tac.

Mike Fergus, regional FAA spokesman, said in an interview that opponents have made accusations that are not true.

He said the FAA is not pushing for commercial flights at Paine Field but simply following federal law. He also said any increase in the number of flights would likely require additional environmental review.

“There’s no rubber stamp,” he said.

Oscar Halpert: 425-339-3429,