Passenger flights threaten airport’s industrial users

We all remember our parents reading us the story, “The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs” when were children.

In it a man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose that laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough. Imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it. Then, they thought, they could obtain the whole store of precious metal at once; however, upon cutting the goose open, they found its innards to be like that of any other goose.

In plain English, “killing the golden goose” has become a metaphor for any short-sighted action that may bring an immediate reward, but will ultimately prove disastrous.

Such is the case with the city of Everett. They want to kill a thriving and prospering aerospace industry in Snohomish County by forcing passenger airline service onto reluctant south county communities at Paine Field.

It was just a short time ago that the state of Washington instituted “Project Olympus,” an appropriately epic title for the eight-month, all-out effort to persuade the Boeing Co. to assemble its next-generation airliner here in Washington. You all know the result: the 787 Dreamliner is being assembled in Everett, adding a new chapter to this region’s long history with Boeing.

Heaven and Earth was moved to create an atmosphere where Boeing could thrive. Yet in one short-sighted action, all that work will be for nothing.

If Everett is successful in bringing commercial flights to Paine Field, by federal mandate commercial passenger airlines would have a priority for use of the airfield over industrial manufactured airplanes that are experimental until they have received federal certification.

Once Pandora’s Box has been opened there would be a rush of discount carriers hoping for lower gate fees hemorrhaging out of Sea-Tac.

Local airports are not allowed to place restrictions on commercial airlines that are greater than those placed on an industrial user. As such, there could be a rapid acceleration of commercial flights out of Paine Field that could leave at any time of the day or night.

Imagine — under the Everett commercial passenger airline plan, a majestic 787 on a tight delivery timeline would have to defer to a Horizon prop jet or an Allegiant Vegas Fun Flight to use the airfield in order to complete its tests for delivery.

Everett wrongly believes that bringing discount airlines into South Snohomish County will somehow create a market for Chicago and New York corporate executives to stay in Everett at yet to be built luxury hotels when they fly into Paine Field.

Look at the track record of ancillary airports around the nation. These airports become the dregs of the large metropolitan areas while prestige airlines are served by the dominant airport in the region.

Do the Everett city fathers really think international or even coast-to-coast flights will come into Paine Field? Of course not! The flights that have to make regional and international connections will travel through Sea-Tac, leaving us with low-cost carriers and the most undesirable elements of an airport community — parking lots, strip clubs and transient services. This will only further reduce the desirability of Paine Field for our industrial users who are creating the remaining family wage industrial jobs in the region.

The city of Everett conducted a study this year regarding commercial air service at Paine Field. It called for relocation of noise monitors and a passenger facility charge to compensate property owners for noise damages. The report says that passenger air service won’t be louder than the industrial users already at the airport.

What this report implies is that the city of Everett is willing to let the industrial users at the airport bear the brunt of the noise monitoring, mitigation and protections that would be required by forcing commercial passenger air service on an unwilling community. By instituting stricter noise monitoring and accountability, Everett is setting up the industrial user of the airport for greater noise mitigation liability.

In pressing its foolhardy plan, Everett is making the industrial users unnecessarily vulnerable to a firestorm of controversy caused by noise and other pollution liabilities the community has been willing to live with as an industrial facility.

Let’s not kill the goose that laid the golden eggs by jeopardizing Boeing and other industrial users of Paine Field. Let’s preserve Paine Field and its industrial uses.

Joe Marine is mayor of Mukilteo.

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