Edmonds in the flight path? Opponents still hope to halt Paine Field passenger flights

It’s been a long time in the works, but with ground now broken for the new Alaska Airlines terminal at Paine Field, project supporters are confident that as many as two dozen daily commercial flights from this new facility will begin in fall 2018. But those who oppose the project are continuing their efforts, and are hopeful that a challenge pending before the Washington State Supreme Court could scuttle the project.

The terminal is being developed by New York-based Propeller Airports, who according to the company website “partners with airport authorities and local communities to privately develop and operate passenger terminals and support facilities.” Propeller negotiated a lease agreement with Snohomish County to allow construction of a 29,000-square-foot passenger terminal at Paine Field, for which it will pay the county $429,000 per year plus a percentage of the gross revenue. The agreement was approved 3-2 by the County Council in 2015.

Alaska Airlines plans to begin operations from the new terminal next fall. Destinations have yet to be announced, but early indications include regular service to the Bay Area and Northwest cities, and some select vacation areas (think Hawaii).

From the outset, this has been one of those projects you either love or hate.

Local supporters include Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Everett Mayor Ray Stephenson. At the June 5 groundbreaking, Somers was joined by Stepehson, Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib, and Alaska CEO Brad Tilden. All expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of commercial flights at Paine Field, citing the economic boost to Snohomish County and the added convenience for passengers. “I love Sea Tac and I love Seattle,” said Somers. “But I hate driving through it.”

Citing the economic advantages of the project, Propeller CEO Brett Smith said in a written statement that “limited commercial air service will bring more jobs and economic activity to Snohomish County, including residents of Mukilteo — not to mention better travel options and competitive fares.”

Alaska Airlines is also predictably bullish on the project. “As our region continues to grow at a record pace and Sea-Tac Airport nears capacity, the time is right to bring air service to our valued guests living in the North Sound,” said Alaska CEO Brad Tilden. “This will mean less time stuck in traffic on Interstate 5 and more time enjoying your vacation or making the most of your business trip.”

According to Everett Mayor Ray Stephenson, “Alaska understands the local market, so having our Seattle-based airline be the first to provide scheduled passenger service from Everett just confirms the value commercial flights will bring to the local economy. Alaska is an industry leader in service and reliability, and our citizens and businesses will benefit from having such a convenient travel option right here in Everett.”

And a 2012 environmental assessment by the FAA concluded that with Paine Field already handling about 300 general aviation takeoffs and landings each day, adding two dozen additional commercial passenger jet flights would have “no significant impacts” on the surrounding community.

But despite these rosy statements, jurisdictions and groups opposed to the project continue in their efforts to halt it, citing noise, increased traffic and other potential negative impacts to the community.

The City of Mukilteo is in the forefront of the opposition, and has been joined by community groups and other jurisdictions including Edmonds, Woodway and Lynnwood. Mukilteo has made several legal attempts in federal and state court to stop the project, and has challenged the FAA’s findings of “no significant impacts” in its environmental assessment. To date, none of those challenges has been successful. The most recent legal action — to which Edmonds is not a party — is a petition to the state Supreme Court questioning the legality of the county’s lease agreement with Propeller. That challenge is still pending.

Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling is also concerned about the potential impacts of commercial passenger flights at Paine Field.

“I’m very concerned about flight patterns and the potential for increased ambient noise in our community from passenger jets flying overhead,” he said. “While Mukilteo’s current suit could make this moot, my sense is that the project is moving ahead and we need to be prepared to work with the airport and flight operators on mitigating the negative impacts on our quality of life here in Edmonds.”

In response to these concerns, Propeller has agreed to avoid late-night operations and limit flights to between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. But opponents see this as a Band-Aid measure at best.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas

Edmonds City Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas is outspokenly opposed to the project.

“Edmonds has been in the forefront of opposing commercial passenger flights from Paine Field for decades,” she said. “Beginning in 1992 we passed seven resolutions under three different mayors opposing these projects. More recently we’ve joined with Mukilteo in their various legal petitions to stop the project. So this is nothing new for us.

“Many of our citizens are very concerned about being right in the flight path,” Fraley-Monillas continued. “This would be very detrimental to our community and our way of life. Those planes will fly so low over Edmonds that we’d almost be able to reach up and touch them. And think about real estate values — who’d want to buy a home under a flight path?”

(Read the most recent City of Edmonds resolution from 2012 opposing Paine Field commercial operations here.

Jerry Capretta, a real estate professional and past member of the Puget Sound Regional Council, has lived in Everett and Edmonds for the past 58 years, and has testified against the project in front of the Edmonds City Council. He is concerned that it will depress local real estate values and cause quality-of-life deterioration in this section of Snohomish County. He feels strongly that it is a “bad idea that our decision-makers will live to regret.”

Love it or hate it, all signs point to the project moving ahead despite the current challenge before the State Supreme Court. But this does not deter those who would stop it before it gets off the ground.

“This month’s groundbreaking just means some dirt was turned over with golden shovels,” said Fraley-Monillas. “Lots can happen between that and the bulldozers moving in.”

A comprehensive list of project documents is available online from Snohomish County here.

— By Larry Vogel










  1. So, you residents who are under the flight path, how DEPRESSED have your property values become lately? Please vote these fear-mongers out of office. We all need this long-awaited alternative to I-5 or I-405 congestion.

  2. Could not agree more Ken. People will grow to love it. Additionally we absolutely love watching the Boeing test flights and find it very common to see the planes before we hear them.

  3. Mayor Earling’s comments are the only realistic ones in this report. Councilmember Fraley-Monillas says:”Those planes will fly so low over Edmonds that we’d almost be able to reach up and touch them.” Boeing has been doing numerous test flights of the 787 for the past several years. I’ve watched them flying over Edmonds but never found them to be bothersome.

  4. I lived in Mukilteo about 2 miles from Paine Field. When I bought the house I knew how close that, and the Boeing plant was. So many people complained about the noise and amount of planes. Hello you live near a airline manufacturing plant and airport!!! Unless your arms are quite huge we won’t be able to touch the aircraft! Good grief! Now I live here where the ferry boat and trains make noise..and that too is fine with me!!!

  5. Having lived in states where flights out of a little airport evolving to a BIG airport, and the resultant complaints about hundreds of low flying aircraft, Edmonds has seen nothing yet. And yes, property values to plunge after the fact.

    For the future, Paine Field needs a Noise Abatement Plan, or they will find themselves in court.

    Although a different set of circumstances, those with short memories please review the below link


  6. When Snohomish County accepted grant funds they lost the right to control all the activities at Paine Field. Grants have a way of looking good but fine print sometimes has impacts that the elected overlook.

    What may be best at this point to get out infront of the noise issue and create a plan that can truly minimize the noise. Alaska Airlines can be a helper in this process and set the rules that all other Airlines will have to follow.

    I recall flying out of Orange County in LA and not only did they have time of day restrictions but they had throttle restrictions. Basically it was get as high as possible before leaving the airport envelope, coast out to the water, and then use the engines to climb to elevation. Low throttle will over homes does reduce noise.

    We should quickly and effectively get Alaska to help us set the standards for all others.

  7. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Burien or Des Moines will truly understand the long term negative affect this will have on the communities here……….including the environment. For a measly amount of added dollars the county will get……………Incredibly short sighted, whoever sold this sold out our communities right by the sea here……just like Burien and Des Moines…………This will get bigger and the cost to the environment and the well being of our population will be shocking. …….Backward, just like the other Washington…….and just for $$$$$$$$$$

  8. For neighborhood impact please take a look at the “neighborhoods” around SeaTac. This is not “fearmongering” or alternative fact – it is absolute fact.

  9. My point is this. John Wayne is the airport I mentioned above and it is very busy with more than 9 flights a day. If we let normal processes work it could be that no one will put any constraints an noise until the flights per day get much larger. So now is the time to get an agreement in place and since it is our “home town” airline, we may stand a better chance to strike a deal now rather than wait for a problem.
    Note in the link supplied by MEN notations are made about when to use high power settings. I have been on flights when the pilot actually says something to the effect of “different take off than you are use to….quick climb, level off and throttle back and coast to point outside noise zone before throttle up.

    Paine field is ideally suited for this technique. Take offs to the north are less than .5 mile to water and to the south is about 1 mile.

    For landing Alaska could argue they want to use the new “gradual decent” process that avoids noisy power settings and arrival use the stand “descend, level off, descend technique. This will dramatically reduce noise on arrival.

    Now is the time to reach out and get the best fix we can negotiate. Horse is out of the barn on this one, lets find a way to feed it an make it our friend.

  10. This is just stupid! The airport was here before most of these people moving in here! I 10 minutes away from Paine field, barely notice the noise. Commercial flights to Paine will do nothing but good for our community! “Those planes will fly so low over Edmonds that we’d almost be able to reach up and touch them.” This is blatant fear mongering: Anyone with common sense can see this. If you can’t, just drive to Mukilteo, you know, where Paine field is. No where in that city even can you get that close to aircraft. The thing is, we already are under the flight path: Multiple flight paths. We are under BFIs flight path, SEAs flight path, and PAEs flight path. The only difference is going to be increased frequency. I should add that whenever they do pass by, 737s (The largest planes we can expect to see flying commercially for a long time) make so little noise you probably would never notice if one flew around 6000 feet above your house. (Which is probably the lowest most will get over Edmonds airspace.) I for one am looking forward to not having to drive an hour to the over capacity over crowded Seatac. Oh! And plane spotting from home is gonna be fun!

  11. If I’m going to have to put up with flights in and out of Paine Field and no doubt I will live underneath the flight paths, I at least want some flights into Long Beach

  12. Edmonds is the same distance from Paine Field as Federal Way is from SeaTac. I don’t hear Federal Way folks complaining about aircraft noise.

    We live not too far from the QFC, just off of Edmonds Way. We are directly under the southbound approach for planes heading into SeaTac. In fact, I can usually see our house when we sit on the right side of the plane. We routinely see new Boeing aircraft leaving Paine Field. They are probably at 5000 feet by the time they’re over us, hardly “close enough to touch”. We see and hear warbirds from the FHC on weekends all summer. None of these things both us in the least. To be honest, the worst aircraft noise come from the Kenmore Air seaplanes coming and going to the San Juans. Those things are LOUD.

    I, for one, welcome passenger service coming to Paine Field. Not having to get to or from SeaTac will add 3 hours to our vacations.

    1. After the opening of the 2nd runway at Sea-Tac in 1970, the residents of unincorporated King County in what would later become Federal Way filed many lawsuits against the Port of Seattle for noise, vibration, and exhaust damages.

      Again starting in 1996, Federal Way was part of the Airport Communities Coalition which sued many times trying to block the construction and operation of the 3rd runway.

      If you think Federal Way folks aren’t complaining, you’re not listening.

  13. Per John Wayne analogous metrics(?) check out https://www.jwairfair.com/questionsandanswers.html

    Those saying whatever, la-di-dah, la-la–la-la, etc. per airport noise have not really experienced commercial flights taking and landing near their home at all hours…

    and the Federal Way folks do complain…its just that no one can hear them!

    1. The thing is Donald, we already have commercial aircraft flying to Paine Field. Often, the aircraft we have now are anywhere from twice to four times as loud as the aircraft that will be flying commercially. Do aircraft flying to Paine field now bother you? If the answer is no, it is likely that adding 10 or so more flights will not affect you either.

      1. Simple reply…10 flights becomes 20…20 flights becomes 40…etc. this is commercial expansion.

        Pollution, quality of life, negative mirco-climate change for Edmonds and local communities will be modified for ever, etc. but that seems to be what everyone wants.

        Paine field will become PAIN-tac!

      2. I’m not sure I understand how the current commercial jets (avg 10/day) are louder than a B737 flown by Alaska Airlines.

        1. Well, they are larger and louder to put it simply. And Donald, whilst expansion could be a future concern, as of now it simply isn’t possible knowing how small the terminal is!

        2. Feel free to do research on a comparison of GE90 (777 engines) volume, and CF6 (737 engine) volume.

        3. An Alaska 737 just flew over Edmonds now. The ones that will be landing at PAE won’t be much louder. Did you hear it? No? In that case don’t expect much from the PAE flights

        4. Thank you. I’ll look at the noise specs for both, but when I’ve observed jets flying over they are not all 777’s; some are 737’s, 787’s, 747’s, and others. I’m not sure why you chose the 777 but I’ll certainly look at the flight data.
          As far as noise from an aircraft heard by an observer on the ground, I’m sure it involves much more than engine volume (size?), but I’ll look at that too.

        5. Regarding your second question – I assure you that when the flight path takes a 737 over the top of my house on approach to Paine, I hear it… sometimes (about 1/month) I feel it through the vibration generated in the house. Of course, I’m sure you understand that they don’t follow the same flight path depending on wind, weather, etc. so whether I heard that particular one is a moot point. Increase the number of those flight 3 fold means I and my neighbors will experience that wonderful sound 3 times more often.

  14. I love the FAA’s preciseness in its use of “significant,” and the way a tidbit of data can be “used” to slant general perceptions toward ones desired response:
    ” …FAA concluded that with Paine Field already handling about 300 general
    aviation takeoffs and landings each day, adding two dozen additional commercial
    passenger jet flights would have “no significant impacts” on the surrounding

    General aviation is not commercial jet traffic. Using that as a comparison obscures part of the actual “impact” (whatever that is). There are currently an average of 10 commercial flights per day at Paine – the rest are classified as general aviation/air taxi/military. Using the FAA’s number of 24 more commercial flights, triples the number of big jets (mainly 737s) one will hear fly over. Is that significant? I didn’t look up the FAA’s definition of “significant” – they probably have a technical standard. But doesn’t 24 vs. 300 sound a lot less impacting than 24 vs. 10?!

    1. You are ignoring the countless Boeing jets we already have flying into KPAE. Most of them widebodies, which are significantly louder then the 737.

      1. For the last couple of weeks, I have looked at Paine Field’s landings and I can easily count on two hands the number of big jets per day that fly into Paine – I’m puzzled by the word countless.

    1. Not all noise, apparently. Council is considering exempting City projects from current noise regulations. But for residents near by a City project, they are proposing a noise exemption for that. Go figure.
      ( Parks, Planning, and Public Works Committee (Jury Meeting Room)
      – Proposed revisions to the city’s noise ordinance that would exempt sounds created by city street construction, repair projects or utility work.)

  15. We had a friend recently visit from Thailand, and she wanted to take the tour of the Boeing plant from the Future of Flight. We saw Paine Field with dozens of new jetliners lined up in various stages of the manufacturing process. That there is no air service there, surrounded by all this wonderful technology, is incomprehensible. The boost for business with commercial flights there will be huge. Personally, the worst part of air travel is the drive from Edmonds to Sea-Tac, so I’m thrilled at the prospect of being to take flights out of Paine Field. Short drive, no traffic jams, inexpensive parking, shorter security lines, what’s not to like?

  16. The “plane noise” just might drown out the “train noise”. Then we could “reach out and touch them both”. Could there be anymore significant amount of ridiculous, short-sighted, ignorant comments from the city council? We are getting the politicians that we deserve………unfortunately.

  17. Ruling out the noisy air traffic from the Kenmore Air Force, the present traffic to/from Pain field from Boeing’s test ? and other flights over our Edmonds home are ,more than enough! I don’t know the altitude involved, but when as viewed, as done today, a large Boeing jet comes out of the low overcast, just barely above the low ceiling with it’s jet engines spooling up or down, noise is definitely an issue. Yes, these incidents vary, but the issue remains. The time will come with major life loss and damage when a critical error occurs! We have many occasions where a jet cruises over our home with little noise, but also many times in the early AM hours with major jet engine noise prompting a prayer from or bedroom , “Up, Up big boy!” We have lived in this home since 1969 and hope the FAA takes up to 16 YEARS to decide this issue! The noise issue reminds me of a saying popular in WW2, as to artillery incoming fire: ” You’ll never hear the one that gets you!”

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