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Winter likely the earliest for first Paine Field flights

EVERETT — While Paine Field’s passenger terminal is being readied and three airlines are itching to begin service, the timeline for commercial flight rests squarely on when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decides to give the “all clear.”
The FAA is taking a second look at environmental impacts because there are more flights, more airlines and different planes than when the proposal first landed at the FAA for approval.
The differing plans triggered the need for a supplemental environmental study, the FAA said in a statement Friday, June 1. The study would look at traffic and noise, among other factors.
Alaska, Southwest and United airlines announced plans to fly from Paine Field, building excitement for fall flights.
Now, it could be winter.
A study like this generally takes between six to 18 months, the FAA said, but couldn’t give a concrete timeline. The process will include a public hearing.
The possible outcomes range from clearing the plan to telling the county it must prepare a larger Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to study the impact of additional airport activity.
“Construction of the terminal is expected to be completed in September. Commercial operation will begin when the FAA completes its regulatory process,” Paine Field spokesman Scott North said. “If the FAA approves, we expect flights to begin some point this winter.”
The two-gate terminal at Paine Field continues to be built by Propeller Airports, a private firm that now has an office in Everett. Propeller is leasing the land and would own and operate the terminal.
Propeller’s CEO Brett Smith said the company is “assisting as needed” in the FAA’s environmental assessment process, but that the matter is largely between the agency and the airlines. Smith said Propeller had already worked to have Paine Field approved for commercial flights.
Smith declined to comment about potential impacts on Propeller or the three airlines on board to fly out of Paine Field if the FAA review caused delays or limited flights.
The FAA previously cleared commercial service on a prior plan involving two airlines and about 12 flights, determining in 2012 that there would be no significant impact from commercial service. Now, the plan is for 24 flights combined.
Opponents including the city of Mukilteo and the group Save Our Communities pushed for more studies on traffic and noise impacts, but their options ran out when the state Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal.
“This has been part of the process established” by the FAA, “and we respect the process,” said Bobbie Egan, Alaska’s external communications director, noting it is eager to begin flying.
United and Southwest did not respond by deadline.

 

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