State commission recommends Paine Field as one of two potential options for new aviation capacity

Paine Field (Photo courtesy Snohomish County)

Adding capacity at Paine Field was one of two options recommended to the Washington State Legislature to meet the state’s growing demand for commercial passenger service, air cargo and general aviation capacity in Washington state.

After months gathering public feedback and reviewing technical analyses, the Washington State’s Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission  submitted Phase II recommendations to the Washington State Legislature that include continued study of two options for future aviation capacity.

The two options were submitted on Oct. 15 and include:

Growing Paine Field according to its Airport Master Plan (with potential for additional capacity).

– This assumes Seattle-Tacoma Airport executes its Sustainable Airport Master Plan, and includes a recommendation to assist other airports interested in pursuing regional commercial service (distributed air service supported by emerging technology).

Continue to develop a “greenfield” site option with a two-runway configuration.

– A greenfield site refers to a place where no prior airport has existed. The commission recommended Pierce County Central, Pierce County East and Thurston County Central for additional technical analysis and community outreach.

A map of the sites is available online.

The demand for aviation in Washington state is growing and will soon exceed the capacity of existing airports, the commission said in a news release issued Thursday. The Phase II recommendations come eight months after the commission recommended six preliminary airport sites with potential for expansion to meet both short- and long-term aviation needs.

“This is an opportunity for the state to consider how to meet capacity limits while also planning for an airport of the future,” said David Fleckenstein, WSDOT aviation director and chairman of the commission. “Increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuels could significantly reduce harmful emissions. Emerging aeronautics technology could also reduce noise from airplanes while also providing additional commercial air service options to more airports around the state.”

In the coming months, the commission said it will offer additional opportunities for public input and study additional technical data about each greenfield site still being considered. To learn about updates and new developments in the process, sign up for email updates (under News, select “CACC”). A final recommendation is due to the state Legislature by June 15, 2023.

The commission is considering environmental effects, economic and technical criteria and public feedback and opinion as it develops recommendations to improve Washington’s air transportation capacity.

The Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission was created by the Legislature in 2019 with a charge to provide a recommendation by June 15, 2023, for a single preferred location to meet the forecast demand for commercial passenger service, air cargo and general aviation. After the commission makes its final recommendation, it will be up to the Legislature and potential airport sponsors to act on that recommendation.

The Legislature directed three phases for the commission’s work:

  • Phase I: develop a short list of six locations.
  • Phase II: identify two options for meeting aviation demands.
  • Phase III: choose a single preferred location by a 60-percent majority vote.

In December 2020, the commission released its Phase I report, which listed six preliminary airport sites with potential for expansion to meet both short and long-term aviation needs. A February 2022 report provided a final short list of six locations. The October 2022 report details the two options selected. The commission will provide its recommendation for a single preferred location to the Legislature by June 15, 2023.

The commission’s 14 voting and 12 nonvoting members include representatives from the aviation industry, the public, airport communities, freight industry, state and local agencies and elected officials. WSDOT provides the commission technical assistance and staff support from its aviation division.


  1. We here in Edmonds and vicinity will have to expect increased noise and pollution from expansion of capacity at Paine Field. The commission acknowledges the possibility of more noise, but offers nothing concrete or realistic in terms of noise reduction. The report suggests that new technologies like electric planes and bio-fuels will mitigate the carbon and other pollutants, but these are nowhere close to being a useful solution as cargo and passenger flights at Paine will increase long before they come to fruition. Once again, no one mentions limiting population growth. It’s a sacred cow.

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