Arif Ghouse flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arif Ghouse flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Paine Field Airport director departing for Sea-Tac job

Arif Ghouse, who oversaw the launch of commercial air travel at Paine Field, is leaving after eight years.

EVERETT — Paine Field Airport Director Arif Ghouse is stepping down to take a job with his previous employer, the Port of Seattle.

He will serve as chief operating officer for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport starting Feb. 21.

Ghouse was the deputy airport manager at Sea-Tac in 2014 when he was chosen to lead the Snohomish County Airport. He replaced Dave Waggoner, who retired as airport director after 22 years.

Since then, Ghouse has overseen eight years of enormous change at the Snohomish County Airport, including the political and environmental groundwork that led to the launch of commercial air service in March 2019; the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which nearly shut down air travel and hobbled the aerospace industry for more than two years; an airport budget that grew from $19 million in 2014 to the current $80 million; and an airport staff that nearly doubled to 92 employees by 2022.

Ghouse was traveling Friday and was not available for comment.

While at Paine Field, Ghouse led the work to update the Airport Master Plan, which had not been revised since 2003. Ghouse serves on the Washington State Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission and is past president of the Washington Airports Management Association.

In the spring of 2020, Ghouse, along with state and county officials, lobbied the federal government for support after the airport received a paltry amount of pandemic-based emergency aid. The grants were intended to support operations and replace lost revenue from the steep decline in passenger traffic and aerospace activity during the pandemic. A federal formula that failed to take into account Paine Field’s new role as a commercial air travel base was to blame. Paine Field subsequently received a $5 million federal airport improvement grant that fall to remedy the oversight and replace a 20-year-old taxi-way.

Josh Marcy (Courtesy of Snohomish County)

Josh Marcy, the airport’s deputy director, will serve as interim airport director. He will take the reins on Tuesday.

“We’re losing a good leader but hopefully I can fill his shoes and make sure the airport moves in a positive direction,” Marcy told The Daily Herald on Friday.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers announced his appointment on Friday.

“We know that the businesses and workers who rely on Paine Field for their livelihood depend on steady hands guiding the airport, and that’s why we’ve chosen Josh Marcy as interim director,” Somers said in a statement. “We also want to make sure that our general aviation community, passengers flying from Paine Field, and everyone who comes to marvel at the aviation wonders on display know that we will continue to invest in the airport to ensure it only improves with age.”

Marcy, who has 20 years experience in the aviation industry, has been at Paine Field since May 2021.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to work with county leaders to guide the next stage of Paine Field’s development,” Marcy said. “For those of us who love aerospace and aviation, there is no better place in the world to be than right here at Paine Field. We will continue to nurture this community asset and ensure it is providing maximum value to our community.”

The airport supports nearly 160,000 jobs in the region and has a total annual economic impact of $60 billion, according to a recent state Department of Transportation study.

Paine Field could see more changes in the years ahead.

The airfield is home to The Boeing Co.’s massive assembly plant which produces the 767, KC-46 tanker and 777 series aircraft. The jet manufacturer announced this week that it will begin building some 737 MAX airplanes at the Everett factory next year.

Paine Field has taken center stage in the recent quest to expand the region’s commercial passenger service footprint. Demand for air travel is expected to outstrip current capacity at Sea-Tac in the next decade.

The state’s Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission has identified Paine Field as a potential alternative to Sea-Tac and is recommending “priority and funding” to increase capacity at the Everett terminal.

Paine Field’s commercial air terminal is privately owned by Propeller Airports, which built and operates the facility. Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary Horizon Air operate a dozen daily flights from Everett to western cities, including Anchorage, Alaska. In its first year of operation, the terminal served more than 1 million travelers. In March, the terminal will mark its fourth anniversary.

“While we are sad to see Arif go, we have no doubt the team he has put in place will ensure the ship stays the course,” Propeller CEO Brett Smith said. “He has developed a strong team at Paine Field, which has had a big impact on the airport.”

The airport houses more than 550 aircraft, including small single-engine recreational aircraft, corporate jets and vintage warbirds.

Paine Field is also a major tourist destination with the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center, the Museum of Flight Restoration Center and the Wartime History Museum (formerly the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum), which is expected to re-open under new ownership sometime this year.

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

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