Homeowners seek refuge from increased flights into Paine Field

Mill Creek has become the preferred destination for waterfront residents escaping the noise, traffic from proposed flights by Alaska Airlines.
By Dan Aznoff | Jul 20, 2017

Realtor Bill Callahan has spent the last 30 years helping people buy and sell view homes in the community of Mukilteo. This summer he has been kept busy with homeowners who have made the decision to trade their view of the Puget Sound for the serenity of a home with a view of a golf course in Mill Creek.

Agents in Mukilteo and Edmonds have seen an increase in owners who are moving inland to escape the prospect of more noise from increased air traffic over the waterfront areas of the community as well as the anticipated congestion on roadways into the Snohomish County Paine Field Airport.

A spokesperson for the regional office of the Federal Aviation Administration in Renton warned anxious homeowners to “look before they leap” because Mill Creek is directly underneath the landing pattern for planes approaching Paine Field.

“There’s a major difference between an airplane on final approach at 1,500 feet and one that has made the turn toward Paine from 20,000 feet,” Callahan said with a laugh. “People who live in Mukilteo and adjacent neighborhoods in south Snohomish County have been opposed to commercial traffic at Paine Field for many years.

“This was inevitable.”

The realtor added that opposition to expanded service at Paine has been tempered in recent months by local residents who have voiced their excitement about being able to avoid the hour-long commute to Sea-Tac to catch a flight.


The decade-long battle to stop commercial traffic at Paine Field by the city of Mukilteo ended last month when the state Supreme Court declined to review the review the city’s appeal of a March 2015 decision by the county to execute the lease option agreement with New York-based Propeller Airports based on the environmental impact of a two-gate terminal.

George Tsoukalas is a frequent flyer who is thrilled by the prospect of flying out of Paine Field.

“Personally, I’ve been looking forward to this,” he said. “It’s not just the traffic driving through Seattle, but the inconsistency of it. Some days it might take me 40 minutes to drive to the airport, other days it takes 70 minutes.”

“Flying from Paine Field will allow me to schedule my time more efficiently,” Tsoukalas said. “As a business traveler, that makes a big difference.”

The new, two-gate terminal at Paine Field is being developed by Propeller Airports to handle up to 16 flights per day. Alaska Airlines announced plans to offer at least nine flights a day beginning in 2018 to destinations on the West Coast.

Alaska is the only airline that has announced plans to fly out of Paine Field, but Propeller CEO Brett Smith said there is a lot of interest, and interested parties should “stay tuned” for more.

In an effort to reduce impacts on Mukilteo and other residential areas, Propeller has agreed to limit late-night and early-morning flights. Operations would typically begin around 6 in the morning and finish every evening by 8 or 9 p.m., Smith said.

Paine Field already handles about 300 takeoffs and landings every day, mostly from general aviation, Boeing and other aerospace companies. The facility was originally built as a “super airport” as part of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.

Kevin McKey, with the Flights Standards Division of the FAA, emphasized that all take-offs and landings from Paine are done exclusively to the north and from the south, but quickly added the airport has no control of a plane’s flight path once it leaves the monitored airspace of the airport.

“As long as the pilot files an approved flight plan, the route could take the aircraft over Mill Creek or a number of communities in Snohomish County,” McKey said.

FAA guidelines published for Paine Field require pilots to avoid school sites. Approaching aircraft must stay above 1,600 feet and “remain as high as possible before beginning final glide approach” unless otherwise directed by Air Traffic Control.

Small propeller aircraft are required to climb to 1,100 feet or higher before making an initial turn. Larger planes must maintain an altitude of 1,600 feet or higher before turning to the east or west.


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The level of buyers hoping to find a home in Mill Creek was high before the announcement of scheduled service from Paine Field, according to Mill Creek resident Cassy Reichelt, a broker and certified staging professional with the Windermere office in Alderwood who has lived in Mill Creek for 20 years.

The real estate market continues to be hot, Reichelt said, with the median price of a home sold in Mill Creek topping $500,000 for the first time in May, an increase of 14.4 percent compared to the same month in 2016. Buyers, she said, are interested in Mill Creek because of the quality of life, good schools, and its proximity to population/employment hubs in Seattle and on the Eastside.

Jay Richardson with the Richardson Realty Group in Mill Creek Town Center said he had noticed an increased migration of homeowners moving east since the announcement about passenger service at Paine Field.

“The market in Mill Creek has been scorching hot for a few years, especially if you’re a seller,” Richardson said. “That’s not news. This migration just adds fuel to an already active market.”

The reality of the situation, according to both Richardson and Reichelt, is that people who have grown accustomed to living on a golf course like Harbour Pointe in Mukilteo find an easy transition to greens and fairways in Mill Creek.

“Mill Creek is not fertile ground for most first-time buyers,” Richardson said. “Most people are buying the home (in Mill Creek) they deserve and hope to live in many years.

“They are not going to let a few airplanes take away their dream of living on the golf course.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Michael Scherping | Aug 03, 2017 21:48

Can't say that I blame them. But I'm sure Mukilteo will always remain a prestigious area, albeit a little more affordable. Mill Creek still has a way to go in terms of redevelopment in order to be truly nice and spoken in the same breath as such places as Redmond, Bothell, or Kirkland and Woodinville. We're getting there, but we certainly haven't arrived!

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