Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Who owns Paine Field?
A. Paine Field is owned and operated by Snohomish County, and is also known as Snohomish County Airport.
Q. What is SOC?
A. Save Our Communities (SOC) is a non-profit organization of concerned citizens from communities throughout Snohomish, Island, and northern King Counties dedicated to preserving the quality of life in this primarily residential area of Puget Sound. Formed in 1992, it is a one-issue group – specifically, we oppose any attempt to transform Paine Field into a ‘SeaTac-North’.
Q. Why was SOC formed?
A. In 1992, a Puget Sound-wide air transportation study (the ‘Flight Plan Project’) was conducted to identify and evaluate possible alternatives to SeaTac expansion. SOC was formed to provide a unified voice of opposition to Paine Field being selected as the ‘preferred alternative’. Subsequently, SOC has been active whenever there has been a perceived threat to the well-established role of Paine Field.
Q. Who are SOC members?
A. The many thousands of concerned citizens from cities in the vicinity of Paine Field who signed petitions, volunteered, and/or donated money or other resources during the airport issue ‘campaigns’ from 1988 to the present. SOC is in the process of developing a comprehensive member database.
Q. Why not encourage a major airport to develop at Paine Field?
A. We do not want to see our airport turn into a ‘SeaTac-North’ with the accompanying environmental problems (property devaluation, noise, traffic congestion, strip malls, blight, residential flight, etc). Paine Field is very unique in that it has an agreed-to role regarding the types of uses that are encouraged and strongly discouraged.
Q. What is the Mediated Role Determination (MRD)?
A. A sequence of closely linked documents jointly created during the 1970s by county, city, and citizen group representatives that culminated in a 1978-79 document (the MRD) that identified the dominant aeronautical activities to be conducted at Paine Field. Also, it established a communications relationship among the stakeholders. SOC considers the MRD a binding agreement between the County and all area stakeholders.
Q. Why is there a Mediated Role Determination?
A. The purpose of the MRD was to establish a formal, written understanding between the County and the cities surrounding Paine Field regarding the role that airport would play in the future. It served as a basis for adjacent land use rezoning — calming prospective residents’ fears about airport expansion — by clearly delineated airport uses to be encouraged and strongly discouraged, and established guidelines for communication and problem resolution between the County and the surrounding cities. Without MRD assurances, many area residents would not have located near Paine Field. We do not know of any other airport having this type of an understanding in place.
Q. Which governmental bodies have passed resolutions in favor of the MRD?
A. In 1992, the Snohomish County Council, the Edmonds School District, the Mukilteo School District, and the cities of Brier, Edmonds, Everett, Lake Forest Park, Lake Stevens, Langley, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, and Mukilteo all passed unanimous resolutions in support of SOC’s position regarding the MRD.
Q. Is the MRD legally binding?
A. No legal ruling has ever been sought or rendered. It may or may not be legally enforceable, but it is most certainly politically enforceable. To even ask this question is tantamount to asking why the County would undertake such a process at all, if they ultimately weren’t serious about holding up their end of the agreement. Such callousness would amount to rank patronization of tens of thousands of voters.
Q. Why do we believe Snohomish County will honor their commitment to the MRD?
A. Because they have honored the MRD for a quarter of a century. However, there are many new faces in county and city governments now, so it’s time to reaffirm this historical support.
Q. What Paine Field activities are "encouraged" by the MRD?
A. General aviation, aircraft-related industries, business & corporate aviation, public service aviation, air taxi, and commuter service.
Q. What Paine Field activities are "strongly discouraged" by the MRD?
A. Supplemental/charter air passenger service, large transport crew training, air cargo aviation, and military aviation.
Q. Does SOC advocate an anti-growth policy for the Paine Field area?
A. Absolutely not. SOC is vocally pro-growth, but not growth-at-all-costs. We are most supportive of the continued efforts of those that have attracted a variety of high-paying businesses to the airport area.
Q. Is SOC an anti-aviation group?
A. Hardly. Our membership includes people from all walks of aviation, including a retired major airline captain, an ex-commuter airline executive, general aviation pilots, aviation mechanics, and many Boeing employees. We enjoy being around the excitement of an active airport, but we don’t want to destroy the existing mix of aviation.
Q. Exactly what is a ‘commuter’ airline?
A. In recent years, the term ‘commuter’ has been used erroneously to describe just about any airline that operated frequent flights on any route length with almost any size airplane. It is just another example of a specific term that evolves into common, generic use much like ‘xeroxing’ or ‘fedexing’. And, it is this misuse of a term that is precisely what Save Our Communities (SOC) opponents hope to capitalize on in the discussion regarding Paine Field and the Mediated Role Determination (MRD). However, in the world of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the organization that regulates the operation of all U.S. airlines, the term ‘commuter’ has a very specific definition. It refers to those scheduled airlines that operate airplanes with a seating capacity of 30 passengers or less. And, Snohomish County confirmed this definition in 1987 by including it as one of the conditions for the operation of San Juan Airlines from Paine Field.
Q. What is the ‘Paine Field Master Plan?
A. It is a FAA-mandated planning document. All airports that receive project and improvement funding assistance from the FAA (the vast majority) must develop a Master Plan, and that plan must be revised every five years to maintain funding eligibility. The format and terminology are rigid, and the forecasting methodology is archaic and unrealistic.
Q. How does the "Master Plan" relate to the MRD?
A. It doesn’t. The Master Plan is nothing more than an FAA funding "hoop" to jump through.
Q. What is the Paine Field Community Council (PFCC)?
A. Formed in 1980, the PFCC meets quarterly and reviews current issues relating to the airport and provides input to the Airport Director and Staff on an advisory basis. There are ten voting members, but only four of them are area residential representatives. All ten are appointees of the County Executive. It is not a decision-making body.
Q. What differentiates the Paine Field Community Council from SOC?
A. SOC has nothing to do with the PFCC. Although the PFCC was established as a result of the MRD, and some of the area residential representatives have been SOC members, the PFCC is an advisory group only. The PFCC does not speak for SOC in any way.
Q. Did SOC work to undermine San Juan Airlines operations at Paine Field?
A. No; SOC was formed several years after San Juan Airlines discontinued operation.
Q. Why did San Juan Airlines fail at Paine Field?
A. Apparently, from a combination of factors, including undercapitalization and the use of small (15 passenger) unpressurized airplanes. But the major reason was lack of paying passengers.
Q. Who is advocating Paine Field expansion beyond MRD guidelines?
A. It appears to be a group that includes the Economic Development Council (EDC), land developers, and others who are convinced that, in order for the county to grow, we must attract large airline service to Paine Field. As one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, this supposition is obviously incorrect. The bulk of family-wage jobs in Snohomish County are around Paine Field, so we’re hardly an anti-growth area!