Paine Field results delayed by months
900-plus comments on the commercial-flight proposal give the FAA a lot of opinion to consider
Officials originally estimated they had about 700 comments on the study, received in public hearings in January and in writing.
“When the comment count was done it turned out to be 900-plus,” said Mike Fergus, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s regional office in Renton.
A draft of the study was finished in December and the public comment period ended Feb. 5. Officials with the FAA at first thought they could be finished responding to the comments on the study by the end of this month, or perhaps April.
Now it looks as if it will take at least until June, Fergus said.
“Barring any other emergency projects that come up, that’s what we’re shooting for,” he said.
The study addressed a proposal by Horizon Air to operate 10 flights a week from Paine Field to Spokane and Portland, Ore., and by Allegiant Air to operate two flights per week to Las Vegas. The study concluded those flights would have no significant negative effect on noise, air quality and auto traffic in the area.
The study was conducted by the Barnard Dunkelberg Co. of Tulsa, Okla., with a $450,000 grant from the FAA.
When comments from the three hearings were transcribed and compiled with those in writing, the volume reached about 2,000 pages, Fergus said.
He said the FAA wants to be thorough in its review, which will involve responding to the comments and determining whether more study on the issue is warranted.
“This process is not a lip service to formalities,” he said.
Horizon Air of Seattle and Allegiant Air of Las Vegas first expressed interest in 2008 in offering regular flights from Paine Field.
Both airlines said the added time won’t affect their plans.
Dan Russo, a Horizon spokesman, said the airline remains interested in Paine Field but will have to make sure the plan still makes economic sense. The airline submitted its letter of interest in October 2008 as the recession hit full force. The airline also is waiting to see if the airlines will be required to pay any environmental mitigation costs.
“We’ll have to obviously wait to see what they say and put that together with how we assess the opportunity when it’s presented to us and make a decision,” he said.
Tyri Squyres, spokeswoman for Allegiant Air, said in an e-mail the timeline will not affect the airline’s plans.
“No impact,” she wrote.
One of the leaders of a group that opposes passenger flights at Paine Field expressed surprise at the extra time required to go through the study.
“Wow,” said Don Doran, president of Save Our Communities and a former mayor of Mukilteo. “I guess it’s heartening to hear that the FAA desires to have a thorough review. I guess it’s positive as well that it was the sheer volume, and I would suggest clarity, of the comments that are causing them to take a more methodical and careful review.”
A spokesman for a group that wants to see flights at the airport, Fly Paine Field, also applauded the FAA’s thoroughness.
“It’s good that the FAA is taking it seriously,” said Greg Tisdel, owner of Tiz’s Doors in Everett. “Whatever conclusion that comes out is going to be a conclusion that’s going to be hard to argue with. There’s a reason for doing what they’re doing and we applaud them for digging in and going through all the stuff.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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