Looking north, an aerial view of Paine Field in Everett, Washington. (Paine Field / Snohomish County)

Looking north, an aerial view of Paine Field in Everett, Washington. (Paine Field / Snohomish County)

‘Great value’: Air National Guard cedes airport parcels to Paine Field

Everett’s Paine Field will take 14 acres of “valuable land,” to be used for aerospace and commercial ventures.

EVERETT — It’s only 14 acres, but at Everett’s bursting-at-the-seams airport, that’s a lot.

The Washington Air National Guard will transfer three parcels it owns at Paine Field Airport to Snohomish County. The military defense wing began operations at the airport in 1953, but left 60 years later in 2013.

“We’ve been trying to get that property for three decades,” said airport spokesperson Kristin Banfield.

The transfer is written into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense policy bill passed Thursday by the House of Representatives.

The defense bill was en route to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The bipartisan bill includes an amendment from U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, to transfer three Paine Field properties. The bill transfers a total of 14.3 acres from the Air National Guard to the Snohomish County-owned airport.

Larsen is the lead Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but previously served on the Armed Services Committee for 22 years.

“Thanks to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, Snohomish County will be able to deliver more jobs and economic opportunity at Paine Field,” Larsen said in a statement. “The Pacific Northwest is the aerospace capital of the world, and I am committed to working with local stakeholders to ensure the long-term growth of the region’s aerospace economy.”

The three parcels are located at the end of the airport’s general aviation runway, Banfield said.

“It definitely has great value to the airport to have it back in full-time use,” she said.

Airport Director Joshua Marcy said: “Rep. Larsen’s office has been instrumental in allowing us to secure the property.”

Aerospace Economic Development Director Terry Ryan and other airport and county officials also worked to enable the transfer.

“It was a team effort,” Banfield said.

Paine Field has a significant need for expansion due to expected growth in the region, but there’s limited land for building new facilities.

The airfield covers 1,315 acres. Most of that land is taken up by the airport’s two runways, general aviation facilities, commercial passenger terminal, dozens of aerospace businesses and The Boeing Co.

The transfer is composed of three parcels:

• Land near the Boeing assembly plant that could be used for industrial activity. The county envisions developing the property for more aerospace manufacturing.

• A parcel that would allow the county to expand the airport access road from two lanes to three.

• A wetland area that would likely be preserved.

“Paine Field Airport is the crown jewel of our region’s economy, generating over $60 billion yearly in economic impact and accounting for over 125,000 jobs,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a statement.

“This transfer of land will allow for additional business activity at our aerospace cluster. We are very grateful for Rep. Larsen and our other congressional partners’ work to make this happen,” Somers continued.

County officials changed the airport’s name this year to Seattle Paine Field International Airport to boost its visibility to airline travelers outside the area and promote it as an alternative to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Banfield said the airport’s preferred name remains Paine Field.

“We use the other name outside of Western Washington,” she said.

Paine Field was constructed in 1936 during the Great Depression as a Works Progress project, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. It was built to become one of 10 new “super airports” nationwide.

In World War II, it was an Army base providing air defense and training. The Air Corps expanded the airport with a 6,300-foot east-west runway and three secondary runways.

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. The Air Force left in 1968.

In 1966, Boeing began construction of a massive aircraft assembly plant to accommodate the world’s first jumbo jet, the Boeing 747. Currently 35,000 people work in three shifts at the factory, the world’s largest building by volume.

The Everett airfield was christened Paine Field in 1946. It was named after aviator Lt. Topliff Olin Paine, an aviator and Everett High School graduate.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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