Government shutdown may delay Paine Field flights

By Brandon Gustafson | Jan 16, 2019

The dispute over funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico has led to a partial federal government shutdown, which may in turn impact the start of commercial air service at the new terminal at Paine Field.

The shutdown began Dec. 22, and is ongoing as of Tuesday, Jan. 15. If it’s still occurring when The Beacon is distributed Wednesday, Jan. 16, the partial government shutdown will have been ongoing for 26 days. The previous record-long shutdown was for 21 days in 1995 and 1996.

According to multiple agencies and companies involved with the new terminal, the arguments between Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., over the proposed $5.7 billion border wall may impact the other Washington in regards to the new Paine Field terminal.

The first flights to and from the Propeller-run terminal are set for Feb. 11.

Alaska Airlines has one flight to Las Vegas and one flight from Las Vegas scheduled for that day. United Airlines, which is the only other airline that will offer commercial service out of Paine Field for the time being, announced in November that its first flights would begin in March.

As previously reported by The Beacon, the start of commercial air service out of the new terminal is subject to final governmental approval. With the partial government shutdown, many Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees are out of work.

The Beacon reached out to multiple FAA public affairs staff members, and received auto-replies from three staff members at the FAA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters saying that they were out of work due to the government shutdown.

The Beacon also reached out to Allen Kenitzer, who is the FAA’s public affairs contact for the Alaskan region, which includes Washington state, and also received an auto-reply that he was out of work.

Those emails recommended contacting Gregory Martin, an assistant administrator for communications for the FAA.

Martin could not provide much comment on the shutdown’s impact on Paine Field.

“All that I have right now to offer is that the decision regarding commercial service to Paine Field could be potentially affected by the continued partial shutdown,” he said in an email.

Paine Field Director Arif Ghouse, could not provide much comment on the situation either, but hopes that the first flights will take place as scheduled.

"We look forward to the start of commercial service at Paine Field and the many benefits it will bring to the region," said Ghouse. “Any delay would be disappointing.”

Alaska Airlines released a statement to The Beacon  saying it hasn’t seen the shutdown affect the terminal. The airlines did note, however, that the longer the shutdown continues, the higher chance it has to impact the start of commercial air service.

“The FAA is continuing its work on the Paine Field environmental assessment and other required approvals, and so far we don’t believe the partial government shutdown has impacted the process,” Alaska’s statement said. “However, if the shutdown lasts much longer, there may be an impact. We continue to work with FAA on this, and are closely monitoring developments on the shutdown.”

The terminal had been expected to open in fall of 2018, but the FAA determined a new environmental assessment was necessary due to the increase in daily flights to and from Paine Field, and the change in the type of aircraft.

When the previous study had been conducted in 2012, there were only 12 flights scheduled to and from Paine Field. There will now be a total of 24 takeoffs and landings at the Propeller-run terminal. Alaska will have 18 of those flights, while United will operate the remaining six.

The new assessment was released in September and showed that the increase in flights, as well as the different type of aircraft, will not have any significant impacts on noise, air quality, or traffic.

 

 

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