FAA clears Paine Field tarmac for passenger service

By Paul Archipley and Sara Bruestle | Dec 05, 2012

The FAA decision that many airport area residents feared but expected came down Tuesday: Permitting commercial passenger service at Paine Field will not have significant adverse effects on the community.

The decision reinforced the agency’s previous conclusion that pollution, traffic, noise and other consequences of commercial jet traffic would not be significant enough to require a thorough environmental review.

Two airlines had previously indicated an interest in using Paine Field for commercial service – Alaska/Horizon and Allegiant.

During the three years the FAA took to come to its decision, Horizon decided it was no longer interested, and would focus on Sea-Tac instead.

But Las Vegas-based Allegiant continues to express interest. A spokesman said they would like to start with four flights per week, increasing to about 20 per week over the next five years.

In September, the FAA said adding up to 23 flights per day would not have a significant adverse impact on the surrounding communities.

Needless to say, opponents of the decision have a different view.

The city of Mukilteo, which has set aside a legal fund of more than $150,000 to fight Paine Field expansion, will likely appeal the decision, Mayor Joe Marine said.

But their approach won’t be known until city officials sit down with their attorney on Thursday, he said.

“I think that it’s what we all expected, and they’ve taken close to three years to do what we anticipated that they would, which is tell us no significant impact because they didn’t fully study all the projections for commercial flight activity, so of course that is the conclusion they would come to,” Marine said.

Greg Hauth, vice president of the citizens’ group Save Our Communities, was even more critical.

“I think the FAA has just completely failed to follow environmental law,” Hauth said.

He pointed out the FAA looked at a limited number of flights in reaching its conclusion, but now the door is open to many more flights than the FAA considered.

“Their studies finding that there is no significant impact is egregious, because they have not done the studies properly at all,” he said.

“They are charged to do reasonable foreseeable accumulative impacts, and all they did was take a tiny slice of activity and conclude no significant impacts. It’s the willful ignorance of the environmental law that is egregious.”

Hauth urged the city to take legal action.

“We expect the city of Mukilteo to fight this, and we’re going to fight it and we hope citizens will respond and fight it as well,” he said.

Comments (1)
Posted by: John T Baker | Dec 06, 2012 14:38

Great...it's done.  Now can we please take the City's $150k legal fee and the Save Our Communities slush funds and put them to good use closing the gaping holes in the City's budget?    These funds are multiples of the amount the City will gain by the action taken last week in pushing our property tax rates to the maximum allowed by law.

The FAA found no reason to expect there to be an impact from the minor level of commercial use being proposed at Paine Field because there is none to be found. NONE!  Not even close!  And, where I went to school, 2 X NONE still equals NONE.   There is no reason to model 5 or 10 times the amount of traffic being proposed because there is NO prospect of anything like that happening in any of our lifetime.

The reason there is NO prospect of that happening is that there is simply no place to go from Mukilteo (i.e., no reason to connect through Mukilteo) and there is not enough travel to be sourced in this area alone...certainly not in competition with SeaTac...to warrant such capacity.  This is NOT LA, Chicago, or NYC.   Yes, my arguments are simple, but at least they aren't the dishonest, say-anything-and-hope-it-will-stick stuff that has comprised the arguments put forth against the proposed commercial use of Paine Field.

I predict that commercial service at Paine Field will ultimately fail simply because it isn't commercially viable.  Horizon (part of the aggressively-expanding Alaska Air Group) apparently has already concluded this, leaving Allegiant as the only remaining airline interested at this time (originally there were three).  I have maintained that the better means to ensure no commercial traffic at Paine Field would be to actually invite all the airlines in...the more that try, the more likely that ALL will fail.  The pie can only be sliced so thin before the economics fail.  Again...I predict that even the whole Paine Field passenger pie is too small to pay out for even one airline...but let's watch Allegiant have a go at it.  Their failure would ward off attempts by others.

As you can see, and as I have said many times before, I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of commercial flights at the field.  However, I am opposed to the embarrassingly dumb arguments that have been made by the City, City officials, and SOC in their desperate efforts to fight the FAA on this.   Example: Why are Boeing planes not a problem and commercial planes are:  Answer: Empty Boeing airplanes don't make as much noise as full commercial airplaines...yes, that was Mr. Marine's best pitch in the last discussion I had with him.  Really!  That's the best you have?

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