The Everett Herald reports today that Horizon Airlines has made an official announcement that it wants to operate daily flights from Paine Field in Snohomish County, north of Seattle, to Portland and Spokane. Commercial air passengers going to or from Snohomish County at present have virtually no other option but to travel some 50-plus miles between the county and Sea-Tac Airport on congested Interstate 5.
The county is anchored by the city of Everett, famous for its Boeing manufacturing plant adjacent to Paine Field (pictured, below). But the county economy has diversified and grown, both in employment, population, traffic congestion and housing construction. Data from the state’s Office Of Financial Management show April, 2008 population of Snohomish County is 696,600; its two sister counties in Central Puget Sound are King (1.88 million) and Pierce (805,400). State DOT data (third map from top, here) show by 2030 Snohomish’s population is projected to grow to 968,841, King’s to 2.18 million, and Pierce’s to 982,230.
This growth rate suggests the need to closely consider use of existing airports such as Paine – with runways ready for commercial planes; and to revisit the even thornier issue of a new regional airport, as well. That quest seems all but inevitable, again, concluded the Seattle Times in an editorial yesterday.
More on the Horizon news from The Herald.
Horizon, which is owned by Alaska Airlines, wants to launch daily flights before next summer, likely to Portland and Spokane. The decision comes after a 6-0 vote last month by the Everett City Council in favor of a resolution supporting scheduled commercial flights at Paine Field….The Port of Everett recently approved a resolution that stops short of calling for commercial air service, but does urge the county not do anything that would hurt federal funding at the airport because it is used by the Boeing Co.
Horizon said it is considering flights that would aid same day business trips. Passengers could also use the service to connect in Portland with other destinations, bypassing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. “Rather than suffer on the I-5 slog or endure tedious hours on I-90, Snohomish County residents would be able to travel between these Northwest regions much more quickly with Horizon Air from Paine Field,” said Dan Russo, Horizon’s vice president of marketing and communications.
It’s not a done deal yet, but it marks a real turning point in the long and often contentious dialog over the possibility of commercial flights at Paine. Horizon had in 1998 considered flights but backed off. Earlier this year Allegiant Air – which flies out of Bellingham, had mused publicly about Paine operations. The community response gave pause, but as Seattle Times’ aerospace writer Dominic Gates reports this afternoon, Allegiant is still investigating the Paine option. Still, no carrier had clearly stepped up to say, “Okay, let’s move forward” at Paine Field. Until now.
The airport was built as a Works Progress Administration project in 1936. It was originally conceived of as one of ten national “super-airports” around the U.S., but instead became home to the Air Force and later Boeing as it developed the 747, and then other large models in its adjacent plant built in the 1960s.
In a statement, Horizon stressed that low-noise aircraft would be used if its Paine plan takes off.
Mindful of community concerns, Horizon would operate the flights with its 76-seat Bombardier Q400 high-speed turboprops, among the quietest commercial aircraft in the world today. This neighborhood-friendly aircraft is 10 decibels quieter than a similar-size jet and more than 20 decibels quieter than an MD-80 jet. Even city center airports where stringent noise limitations are in effect — such as those in London and Toronto — have accepted Q400 flights. The Q400 is also among the most environmentally friendly aircraft today, burning 30 percent less fuel and producing 30 percent lower emissions than a similar-size jet.
The airline does have a caveat: facility lease and ground operations terms would have to pencil out.
The airport has three paved runways and covers about 1,300 acres.
UPDATE: Editorials on the story, from The Seattle Times, and Everett Herald.