Paine Field manager Dave Waggoner calls PAE the local “airport of choice” thanks to the diversity of its customers. Just 30 miles north of Seattle, Paine is home not only to a 472-million-cubic-foot Boeing facility, the world’s biggest building by volume, but it’s also home base to general aviation aircraft, including twins and helicopters. Honeywell’s four-aircraft research flight department has called Paine Field home for nearly 30 years. More than 3 million people have toured the airport as well, beginning at the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour, an interpretive visitor center focused on the future of commercial aviation.
Paine Field’s diversity was not its birthright, however. Built during the Great Depression, local officials expected PAE to be one of the nation’s 10 “super airports” when it opened in 1938. World War II delayed those plans when the Army Air Force arrived to protect Boeing and the shipyards. The military never really left until 1966, Waggoner said, the same year Boeing was looking for someplace to build its 747. After ceding its intended “super airport” status to Seattle-Tacoma International, Paine Field now covers 1,315 acres.
To promote cooperation and understanding, representatives on and off the airport form the 10-member Paine Field Community Council. Created in 1980, it meets regularly to review, assess and make recommendations to the airport manager and affected government entities. “Snohomish County signs off on the budget and other big decisions,” Waggoner said. Honeywell’s Director of Flight Operations Markus Johnson said, “No matter how many times we’ve studied other airports, Paine Field has always been a great place for us to operate. The local authorities are always very supportive of the unusual flight operation we fly to support Honeywell’s research efforts.”
“Large and small, they [businesses and airplanes at the airport] coexist well,” Waggoner said. ATS at the airport’s south end, for example, is North America’s largest maintenance, repair and overhaul facility for commercial, business and military aircraft. Castle & Cooke Aviation recently added its new facility to PAE’s mix of FBOs as well. The Everett Community College Aviation Department trains tomorrow’s technicians, and Regal Air and Northway Aviation do likewise for pilots. Other annual educational efforts at the airport include an Aviation Academy for students and a Science of Flight program for teachers, with ground schools and introductory lessons.
Airport neighbors look forward to participating in Paine Field’s annual community events, which are General Aviation Day in May and Warbird Weekend in September. Former Microsoft executive Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection of World War II aircraft fly here frequently, Waggoner said, while the Museum of Flight’s Restoration Center and Legend Flyers’ replica Me-262 project are also popular destinations for visitors.