Way cleared for commercial flights at Paine Field

  • By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
  • Tuesday, December 4, 2012 1:52pm

The way has been cleared for commercial jets to carry paying customers into and out of Paine Field.

The federal government on Dec. 4 reinforced its earlier opinions that flights would not significantly increase noise, traffic or pollution in communities around the airport.

No further environmental studies on the matter will be required, according to the decision.

In 2009 and again in September of this year, the FAA said adding 23 flights per day by 2018 would not degrade surrounding neighborhoods.

The ruling that was based on an environmental assessment done in 2009. The agency took nearly three years to respond to comments and issue a follow-up report this September.

Flight opponents have said the assessment did not account for potential long-term effects and argue that a more thorough study — an environmental impact statement — should be done.

Allegiant Air of Las Vegas and Horizon of Seattle in 2008 asked Snohomish County for permission to fly from the airport. The county owns and operates the airport.

Allegiant originally proposed to start running four flights per week from Paine Field and increase to 20 over five years. Horizon asked to run 140 commuter flights per week from the airport.

Before flights can begin, both airlines need to obtain certificates for operating out of Paine Field, and the county needs a certificate authorizing commercial flights at the airport, according to today’s decision. The county also must build a small modular terminal.

Paine Field does not currently have a passenger terminal. The county in 2009 issued conceptual plans for a small terminal that could handle the number of flights proposed by the airlines. It’s uncertain when flights could begin.

Except a short period around 1950 and again briefly in the late 1980s, Paine Field has not had commercial passenger service.

Horizon, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, said in September that it was no longer interested in using Paine Field because of the economic recession and because of improvements at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. If another airline were to begin service in Everett, however, the company could change its mind again, Alaska spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said.

Allegiant still wants to come, a spokesman said — meaning that both airlines could wind up serving the airport after all.

“It is absolutely still the case that if a competitor were to begin commercial service at Paine Field, we would have to respond by adding flights using both a Bombardier Q400 turboprop and Boeing 737 jet,” Egan said in an email Tuesday.

Allegiant flies Boeing MD-class jets.

The airport was built in the late 1930s. It primarily has served military operations, Boeing service and test flights, aircraft maintenance businesses and small, private planes.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.