An Alaska Airlines Embraer 175. Alaska and United Airlines plan to use this model on routes to and from Paine Field in Everett. (Alaska Airlines)

An Alaska Airlines Embraer 175. Alaska and United Airlines plan to use this model on routes to and from Paine Field in Everett. (Alaska Airlines)

Studies anticipated 12 flights a day, but 24 are planned

The FAA will decide whether that change warrants another look at the impact of passenger service.

EVERETT — Paine Field could soon host double the number of passenger flights envisioned a few short years ago, if everything goes as planned.

The Federal Aviation Administration studied about a dozen daily flights in 2012, when the agency determined regular passenger service would have no significant environmental impact on Paine Field and the surrounding area.

After a round of announcements last month, Alaska, United and Southwest airlines now expect to offer a combined 24 daily departures from Everett, starting this fall.

It’s up to the FAA to decide whether that’s a significant change.

Representatives from the company building a passenger terminal at the airport contend the number of announced flights poses no regulatory issue. Total passengers, car trips and other impacts, they said, should remain about the same as what the FAA studied five years ago in long-since abandoned proposals from other carriers.

“Obviously the FAA has to make that assessment, but we’re confident that it will not show any significant difference,” said Peter Kirsch, an attorney for Propeller Airports. “The numbers are going to be comparable, maybe even less, than what was analyzed then.”

The project, in Kirsch’s opinion, adds a mere two commercial gates at an already busy industrial airport.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, by comparison, has 80 gates.

Neighbors who have long sought to block commercial service have seized on the change in flight volume to demand further environmental studies. A meeting of the Save Our Communities advocacy group drew a robust audience at Mukilteo City Hall on Sunday.

“They never studied enough scope,” said Mike Moore, Save Our Communities’ president. “They never studied enough activity.”

Moore pointed out that the 11.5 average daily flights the FAA studied in 2012 was a hypothetical number in the fifth year of service, after lower initial levels.

Save Our Communities and the city of Mukilteo have been involved in a series of unsuccessful court battles to stop the terminal. Last summer, the state Supreme Court declined to hear their case opposing a commercial air terminal, bringing its suit against Propeller and airport owner Snohomish County to an end.

A statement that Save Our Communities put out after its recent meeting warned that the area could see a “classic death by 1,000 cuts” if commercial passenger service continues to grow.

“Just a couple flights per day, just 11 flights, just 5 more flights, just 8 more flights, just …” the alert reads, letting the reader imagine what would follow.

Propeller CEO Brett Smith said those fears are exaggerated. The terminal is maxed out and limited to two gates for the foreseeable future.

“I would urge them to consider looking at the positive benefits as well,” Smith said, referring to the economic effect and convenience for air travelers of avoiding the drive to Sea-Tac.

There has been a shift in tone from previous disagreements between vocal Paine Field neighbors and advocates for commercial passenger flights.

Alaska and United Airlines plan to use only Embraer 175 aircraft for their 13 and six daily departures, respectively. The relatively small, quieter 76-seat aircraft are welcome news to Save Our Communities. The group hopes to talk to the airlines and to Propeller to discuss more ways to lessen noise.

For its five daily departures, Southwest would use Boeing 737s, which can seat at least twice as many people as the E175.

Propeller expects up to 1,700 passenger boardings per day at the terminal. Flights planned by the three carriers could accommodate nearly 2,350 passengers per day if all the planes were full and if Southwest used its highest-capacity 737s.

The earlier studies were based on flights using larger, louder jets than now under consideration, people on both sides of the controversy agree.

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson remains anxious about the effects, but is encouraged by recent conversations. Gregerson said she met with representatives from Alaska Airlines in the fall and again in January.

“We appreciate the open dialogue we have had with Alaska about voluntary ways to mitigate the new service, including green initiatives, flight paths and hours of operation,” Gregerson said. “The rapidly growing proposal does feel like confirmation of the fears our community had about growth in service. I appreciate that Propeller has no further expansion plans, though.”

The FAA is preparing to start a supplemental environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act. That’s one of three key steps necessary to authorize new service, said Allen Kenitzer, an agency spokesman. So far, the FAA has received formal service proposals from Alaska and United, but not from Southwest.

Snohomish County planners intend to review the federal report, when it’s ready, to decide whether more land-use studies are needed at the local level, county spokesman Kent Patton said.

Terminal construction is scheduled to finish this summer.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Ariel Garcia, 4, was last seen Wednesday morning in an apartment in the 4800 block of Vesper Dr. (Photo provided by Everett Police)
How to donate to the family of Ariel Garcia

Everett police believe the boy’s mother, Janet Garcia, stabbed him repeatedly and left his body in Pierce County.

A ribbon is cut during the Orange Line kick off event at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘A huge year for transit’: Swift Orange Line begins in Lynnwood

Elected officials, community members celebrate Snohomish County’s newest bus rapid transit line.

Bethany Teed, a certified peer counselor with Sunrise Services and experienced hairstylist, cuts the hair of Eli LeFevre during a resource fair at the Carnegie Resource Center on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Carnegie center is a one-stop shop for housing, work, health — and hope

The resource center in downtown Everett connects people to more than 50 social service programs.

Everett mall renderings from Brixton Capital. (Photo provided by the City of Everett)
Topgolf at the Everett Mall? Mayor’s hint still unconfirmed

After Cassie Franklin’s annual address, rumors circled about what “top” entertainment tenant could be landing at Everett Mall.

1 dead in crash near Lynnwood following police pursuit

Deputies said they were pursuing a man, 37, southbound Highway 525 when he swerved into northbound lanes and drove the wrong way.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

People walk along the waterfront in front of South Fork Bakery at the Port of Everett on Thursday, April 11, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port of Everett inks deal with longtime Bothell restaurant

The port will break ground on two new buildings this summer. Slated for completion next year, Alexa’s Cafe will open in one of them.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

The Temple of Justice is shown Thursday, April 23, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)
WA high court: DUI breath tests valid, machine results not at fault

A state Supreme Court ruling reversed an earlier Kitsap County decision that found alcohol breath tests inadmissible as evidence.

People fill up various water jug and containers at the artesian well on 164th Street on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Lynnwood, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Washington will move to tougher limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in water

The federal EPA finalized the rules Wednesday. The state established a program targeting the hazardous chemicals in drinking water in 2021.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
US 2 to partially close late Friday near Lake Stevens

The state Department of Transportation will detour drivers during the 10-hour closure between Highway 9 and Highway 204.

Pat Clayton works on putting in electrical wiring at the new Helion headquarters on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s Helion eyes Central WA for groundbreaking energy venture

Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority commissioners approved a letter of intent with Helion on Tuesday.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.