A passenger takes a photo from the glass gangway while boarding an Alaska Airlines flight on first day of regular airline service at Paine Field terminal on Monday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

A passenger takes a photo from the glass gangway while boarding an Alaska Airlines flight on first day of regular airline service at Paine Field terminal on Monday in Everett. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Editorial: Paine Field can prove itself second to none

It was a bumpy ride getting here, but the first airline flights serve as a point of pride for all.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Chocks up!

Congratulations are in order following the inaugural flight Monday of regular passenger airline service from the new terminal at Paine Field Snohomish County Airport, or PAE in luggage tag parlance.

The first flight, an Alaska Airlines Embraer 175 twin-jet, took off for Portland at 10 a.m., with a full passenger list of dignitaries from throughout the region and others, before returning later that afternoon. Alaska’s daily flights will soon by joined by service offered by United Airlines.

Oh, the places you’ll go: Alaska is offering direct flights to Portland, Los Angeles, San Jose, Orange County, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix, while United is flying passengers to its Denver and San Francisco hubs.

The applause is due many for the day’s arrival, ten years after two regional carriers approached county officials about offering regular service:

The local officials who pursued the goal of offering regional service that would allow travelers to skip the increasingly interminable drive south to Sea-Tac International Airport while at the same time opening a door to the rest of the world to see what Snohomish County has to offer;

The terminal’s builder and operator, Propeller Airports, which has designed a two-gate terminal that in nearly all media accounts is being described as attractive, comfortable and welcoming, adjectives that aren’t often used to describe airports; and

The airlines, in particular, Alaska, for its commitment two years ago to offer service from the Paine Field terminal after initial airline proponents had dropped out.

There’s been turbulence at times as neighboring communities and their officials pressed their concerns and filed lawsuits over the impacts that would follow with — now 24 — regular daily departures and landings. Following methodical review by the Federal Aviation Administration and the courts, too, the new terminal was approved and cleared for operation, though not before a partial federal government shutdown delayed yesterday’s first flight by three weeks.

It may not seem like a day to celebrate for those who opposed the regular schedule of flights. But they can take credit, too, for assuring a careful process for examination of the potential impacts on residential neighborhoods and city streets and thoroughfares that are just as crucial to local economies as the airport is.

Monday’s first flight marks what needs to be a continuation of the relationship among local officials, Propeller, the airlines and neighboring communities to continue the shared commitment to minimize impacts and work together to resolve concerns, to protect the interests of all for livable communities and a new economic engine for the region.

That’s especially important now that more people — unfamiliar with Paine Field but eager to have an alternative to Sea-Tac — will now have first-hand exposure not just to the terminal, but the cities and county that host it.

That experience and the word of mouth that follows represents a valuable return on the investments of the last decade.

You’ll excuse our national media brethren who — in trying to describe the significance of PAE — talked up Paine Field as “Seattle’s second airport,” burying the names Everett, Mukilteo and Snohomish far below the lede.

In truth, Sea-Tac already was Seattle’s second airport, built in 1944, after the U.S. military took control of Boeing Field in south Seattle. Paine Field is actually Sea-Tac’s older sibling, built and operating eight years earlier, in 1936.

The media’s description of Paine Field as belonging to Seattle wasn’t meant as a slight to its hosts here; it’s just shorthand to more easily describe a new airport location for travelers bound for Western Washington, unfamiliar with much outside the Seattle metro area. Remember that most outside of the West Coast believe we live in log cabins and that Starbucks takes delivery of its coffee beans by pack mule.

Given time, the commitments described above and the arrival of each newcomer to Paine Field, expect to here those arriving talk more often of “Everett,” “Mukilteo” and “Snohomish” than they do “Seattle.”

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