Thursday, March 17, 2016

Court gives green light for Paine Field commercial service as early as next year

Commercial flights out of Paine Field could start as early as 2017, now that a federal court has ruled against opponents.

“The ruling closes the door on all the environmental concerns, and allows us to continue to move forward,” said Propeller Airports LLC CEO Brett Smith, speaking from New York. “Certainly we’re happy with the decision.

”The decision could help Boeing executives who would be able to book air travel through Paine Field in Everett, rather than going all the way down to Sea-Tac Airport.

The commercial airport proposal has been vigorously opposed by the adjacent cities of Mukilteo and Edmonds, which had joined with the organization Save Our Communities in filing the suit in the U.S.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. That suit had sought to reverse a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration that the airport project did not require an environmental impact statement before moving forward.

Smith said his company hopes to complete a plan for a two-gate 29,000-square-foot terminal in a few months, and promised to build a striking facility at Snohomish County’s Paine Field.

“It will be clubby,” he said, adding that his company is bringing in a leading architect for the job.
“The focus is on the passenger to make sure they have a great experience.”

Airport Director Arif Ghouse said he believes commercial service from Paine Field will support Snohomish County business people, especially those who work for Boeing or support Boeing.

“We have a huge aerospace community in the Paine Field area. We get a lot of visitors coming into the area every day to meet with clients,” he said. “What we’re hearing from the business community is they would appreciate that easy access to the air market when they they’re flying out, and when clients come in to visit them.

”Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson has vigorously supported the proposed air service.
The project was approved last year, by a narrow 3-2 vote by the Snohomish County Council that approved a lease for the Propeller Airports project.

Under federal law airports receiving federal funds, such as FAA funding for Paine Field, must be open to anyone who wants to use them.

Which airlines might operate out of the Paine Field terminal – which will be limited to 24 flights a day – is not clear.

“There is substantial interest from a number of carriers,” Smith said. “It’s going to help a lot of people. There’s a real need for this in the metro area.”

Last year Alaska Air Group, which operates Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, expressed interest.

“As the hometown carrier with longstanding and deep ties in the region, Alaska Airlines is keenly interested in terminal construction that could make commercial service possible at Paine Field,” said Alaska spokeswoman Bobbie Egan last year.

“We are taking a fresh look at Paine Field to determine whether the demand exists to support commercial service in this market and the role Alaska Airlines would have in meeting that demand.”

(Steve Wilhelm - Puget Sound Business Journal)

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