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Paine Field Snohomish County Airport - Future of Flight

Snohomish County as a Partner

Snohomish County is located north of Seattle. It covers over 2,000 square miles, extending from Puget Sound on the west to the crest of the Cascade Mountains in the east. It was created as a political entity on January 14, 1861. Early commercial ventures in the area focused on agriculture, logging, and mining. In recent years, the largest county employers are aerospace, technology, service industries, tourism, and the building trades. The principal city is Everett, home of Naval Station Everett, which was dedicated in 1994 on waterfront property once dominated by lumber mills. The leadership of the county government consists of a County Executive and a five-person County Council.

Paine Field

Paine Field Snohomish County Airport is approximately twenty-five miles north of Seattle. Quirks of history in its development created an environment and conditions that made the Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour possible.

Snohomish County Airport was originally constructed in 1936 as a federal Works Progress Administration project. A few years later the airport was named Paine Field in honor of Topliff Olin Paine, a graduate of nearby Everett High School who became a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps in World War I and later was a daring U.S. Mail pilot.

Originally it was envisioned that the airport would become one of the ten new "super airports" that the Department of Commerce proposed be built around the country. But that vision was not realized. When the United States entered World War II, air defense facilities were needed to protect the Bremerton Shipyards and the Boeing plant in Seattle that produced the B-17 and B-29 bombers. Therefore, in the spring of 1941 the Army Air Corps took over Paine Field. At that time the airport consisted of little more than two paved runways in the common cross-section pattern, set off at different angles to take advantage of the most favorable winds.

The Air Corps made improvements in the airbase and helped the community economically, even though most commercial air traffic came to a halt during the war. When World War II ended the military presence at Paine Field rapidly declined. The final transfer of property back to Snohomish County was completed in 1948.

Before the county could get back on track with developing a "super airport," the United States became involved in the Korean War. In 1951 an Air Force Aerospace Defense command unit was stationed at Paine Field, and the airport’s name was changed to Paine Air Force Base. The 4753rd Air Base Squadron was designated as the principle organization. Operations consisted mostly of rebuilding the base into a tactical air defense installation. During this occupation, total control of the field was not turned over to the military. While Air Force flight operations had priority, a shared-usage agreement was implemented. Also, to provide housing for the airmen, the airport conceded use of all of the commercial buildings to the Air Force, other than the aviation services facilities. The 4753rd Air Base Squadron was redesignated the 86th Air Base Squadron, which in February 1953 was changed to the 529th Air Defense Group. While hostilities in Korea came to an end in July 1953, the Air Force presence at Paine Field continued, and in 1955 the 326th Fighter Group (Air Defense) took over the operation. In 1961, the 326th Fighter Group was discontinued and was replaced by the 57th Fighter Group.

During the Air Force’s tenure, the County focused on developing the Paine Field property into an industrial business center rather than a commercial air service facility. This new path emphasized intensive economic growth and increased revenues for the airport, providing large amounts of undeveloped land for civilian enterprises to build upon. In 1966, the Air Force began closing Paine Air Force Base, and in 1968 the base was deactivated and the facility was returned to full civil control, leaving Paine Field largely open for commercial development.

Public Facilities District 

Using authority granted by state law, the Snohomish County Council created the Snohomish County Public Facilities District (PFD) in June 2001. The PFD's purpose is to access state "rebated" sales tax revenues and use these dollars to help construct regional centers throughout the county. The District is governed by a five-member Board of Directors that is appointed by the County Council.

The District’s Board has allocated funding to four projects:

  • the City of Everett Public Facilities District’s Arena and Parking Garage;
  • the South Snohomish County Public Facilities District’s Regional Center in Lynnwood;
  • the City of Edmonds Public Facilities District’s remodel of the Puget Sound Christian College for use as a regional performing arts and convention center; and
  • last chronologically, the County’s Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour at Paine Field.

The District’s first president was Travis Snider, a business coach and consultant well known in the region for his numerous volunteer civic activities. A luncheon with his friend Barry Smith would start the ball rollingon the Future of Flight project..