SOC myths debunked

By John Baker | Feb 27, 2013

In response to the Guest View by Save Our Communities (SOC), “The reality of FAA’s decision,” printed in the Feb. 6 edition of the Mukilteo Beacon:

Since SOC’s entire case against commercial aviation use of Paine Field was originally based on emotional and indefensible positions, they have now resorted (as demonstrated in the subject editorial), 1) to concocting mythical positions (conveniently exactly 10 of them, no less!) and then 2) assigning those mythical positions to the supporters of commercial service at Paine Field. It was a very transparent effort and of no real value to the debate.

The following three myths, held by SOC to be truths, support their last ditch fight against the FAA’s Environmental Assessment (EA):

The first SOC myth is that the demand for commercial service at Paine Field is so strong that, not only will the current two airlines, Alaska and Allegiant, with their limited proposed flight schedules, be fully booked and then expand, but also, additional airlines and many more destinations will be coming shortly.

Thus, they contend, the FAA’s EA process was under-scoped and an intentional scam to get the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, i.e. first a few flights and then many more. Indeed, they argue that the Paine Field EA should have been scoped as another runway at SeaTac.

A second SOC myth is that any additional commercial service at Paine Field will adversely impact Boeing’s ability to utilize the field efficiently for research, testing, production and delivery purposes. Mayor Joe Marine seems to be a particularly strong proponent of this myth.

A third SOC myth is the concept that there is a groundswell of sentiment growing in the area against the FAA decision, as evidenced by the mayor and City Council, SOC, SOC-member citizens, the city of Edmonds and so many others. (Surely Carl Rove is helping them scope voter thinking?)

These three myths form the core of their remaining argument, since the FAA’s EA completely destroyed their original unfounded arguments about noise, health, pollution, traffic, prostitution, and the sky falling, as reasons to deny commercial use of Paine Field.

Now let’s really think for a few minutes:

Reality of SOC’s Myth #1 – There is likely NOT sufficient demand for even one airline to profitably provide even modest service from Paine Field. Alaska Airlines indicated as much when they said recently that they would provide service if Allegiant did, in order to defend their market.

To quote: “Commercial service out of Paine Field is not a good alternative for the Puget Sound area. But if other airlines begin using the Everett airport for commercial service, we will too.”

This means that, if Allegiant doesn’t start service, then Alaska likely won’t either. And, consider this question, why would they want to? They’d simply be splitting customers off from their existing SeaTac and Bellingham service.

Do you think that anyone in the north end is actually taking the train or bus to existing Alaska destinations because they don’t want to drive to Bellingham or SeaTac?

So my prediction is that IF Allegiant begins service, Alaska will too. And that they will both run the service at a loss for as long as it takes Allegiant to say “uncle” and discontinue service. Airlines have certainly done this many times in the past.

At that point, Alaska will also discontinue service and provide service exclusively from SeaTac and Bellingham.

This may take 3-5 years to play out, but it will play out. There is simply no economic feasibility for commercial service at Paine Field. Alaska Airlines has essentially told us that. (Note to county: Make sure the amortization schedule for the new terminal is very short!)

Reality of SOC’s Myth #2 – Paine Field is significantly underutilized. There is no reason that a limited number of commercial flights could not be readily accommodated there. (Remember, from the reality of Myth #1 above, because of limited demand, there will never be more than a limited number of flights.)

But most significantly, this myth is debunked by the complete lack of participation by Boeing in this debate. They have never supported the mayor or SOC’s grand claim with a statement that their operations would be threatened.

And indeed, really, Boeing opposing commercial aviation – now wouldn’t their PR guy have fun selling that?!

Reality of SOC’s Myth #3 – The opposition to the FAA is “spearheaded” by the mayor and his echo chamber of councilmembers. Their reputations are sticking out a mile now because they blindly supported the SOC’s fallacious claims that the sky would fall if even the few proposed commercial flights were permitted.

They have been completely shot down by the FAA’s EA: NO impacts; NO mitigation, period. How embarrassing! And while the mayor and council are at the head of the spear, they are now realizing that the spear itself is VERY short!

The “spear” is made up of SOC (funded virtually completely by the city), some SOC board members as private citizens, and the city of Edmonds (although not a penny of support will come from that city!)

Wow, being the head of the spear is no fun if there is really no spear – you end up looking more like just a tiny little rock.

My hope had been that this debate would be conducted based on facts. It has fallen far short of that. It is my opinion that the FAA did a good job, though taking entirely too long and costing too much.

Unfortunately and somewhat embarrassingly, my mayor and my City Council have presented only emotional and fact-free arguments. Protecting egos and avoiding embarrassment now seem to fuel their thought processes – and their ongoing exercises in futility will cost this city money.

Their tactics have been and remain to intentionally drive up the cost of this decision in an attempt to kill the proposal in spite of the facts. Shameful.

In summary, commercial service is coming to Paine Field. If you don’t like that, then don’t use the service. The lack of demand is your loudest voice and, at this point, the only option for stopping the service.

Fly to Portland? For goodness sakes, take a bicycle. That’s what I do.

John Baker is a Mukilteo resident. He is not affiliated with Boeing, any airline, or any government or governmental agency. He is neither for nor against commercial service at Paine Field. In the interest of full disclosure, he says: “I will never use such services, however, neither do I fear any aspect of them.”

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.