By Sid Schwab
The FAA has made its decision on Paine Field, but Snohomish County has yet to weigh in, and Mukilteo is appealing. So, awaiting the inevitable, here’s my two cents, written looking up from under the final approach flight path, waving at the pilots and plugging my ears. (Which isn’t easy, anatomically.) On the Paine Field question, I’m gonna be selfish. And I don’t think I’m being selfish.
People claim it’s about jobs, but I don’t buy it. It’s about convenience; and I believe that like I believe none of those planes will crash into my house. Couple times a year some of our Snohomish County residents drive an hour or so to Sea-Tac on their way to Vegas or some other sunny place. Meanwhile, those of us like me, who’s lived where I live for over 30 years and was told by my realtor (may he rest in peace) not to worry about commercial traffic because there’s a signed agreement (I believed him), are facing the prospect of greatly increased noise and disruption at all hours, every day. So are kids in schools near the flight path. Thousands of people, seriously bothered (Pained, let’s call it), regularly.
A few years ago, neighbors knocked on my door with a petition to stop the Boeing pier, or whatever it’s called. The reason we needed it, we’d been told, was to facilitate the building of the Dreamliner, to keep Boeing from bugging out, and to save several thousand jobs. I told my neighbors nope, can’t sign; can’t argue that my desire for a nice quiet view is more important than keeping thousands of jobs here. So now I’m bathed in industrial noise from that giant crane (some operators seem more inclined than others to pick up and deposit containers daintily); and as views go it’s remarkably less pretty than Mt Baker. But I didn’t feel I had a credible argument against it.
Paine Field? Different kettle of planes. Best I can tell we’re talking a relatively small number of jobs. And if there’s no new passenger terminal, I don’t doubt that, unless Boeing goes wheels up, the space will get filled with some other jobophilic thing. So let’s admit it: we’re choosing shortening the biannual drive of our county’s SeaTacticians over increasingly intrusive constant cacophony for thousands of its citizens. And, as we’ve just learned, we’re not talking small commuter planes; suddenly it’s the big ones, heading all over the place.
Here’s my favorite thing about the environmental impact report claiming commercial planes won’t significantly affect noise: The conclusion comes from taking the roaring racket of a plane and amortizing it over 24 hours! Total noise in a day. It’s like saying a bullet is harmless if you cut the projectile into itty-bitty pieces and spread them over a day, you’ll barely feel it. Amusing; but a little too governmenty for me.
General aviation pleasure craft don’t bother me, and when one of Paul Allen’s vintage warplanes buzzes by I go outside to have a look. (Fighter jets and helicopters, mercifully rare, rattle the house and recall my days in Vietnam. I dislike that.) I accept the Boeing flights for reasons already mentioned, but when one of them is overhead, you stop talking; teachers and students put down their books. People on TV move their lips unheard. Jello jiggles, dreams end. (Yes. Imaginary rules to the contrary, wee-hours landings are happening more and more.) When they’re actually up there, not pixelated over a day, it’s loud. Really loud.
In this case I think I have a case: the constant inconvenience and interruption of gazillions of people takes precedence over the occasional hassles of people driving south once or twice a year, saving one or two of the eight thousand seven hundred sixty hours in a year, every one of which numberless disrupted denizens spend living within the sound field. In fact, I’d guess a majority of our residents use the airport rarely, if at all. So how about we do it like the government does with the noise: let’s calculate the total airport aggravation of each and every county resident on any given day, and compare it to the total daily din and distraction of those of us within roaring distance of Paine Field, and see who bears the greatest burden. Deal?
Oh, and about those coal trains: I’m thinking. I’m thinking.
Sid Schwab lives in Everett. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org