Paine Field's History
Works Progress Project
Snohomish County Airport - Paine Field was originally constructed in 1936 as a Works Progress project. At the time of development, it was envisioned that the Airport would create jobs and economic growth in the region by becoming one of the ten new "super airports" around the country.
The Army Air Corps and Air Force
The large commercial airport that was planned for in the 1930s never resulted. When the United States entered into World War II, there was a need to protect the Bremerton Shipyards and the Boeing plant and airfield in Seattle, which produced the B-17 and B-29 bombers. The Army Air Corps occupied the field in the spring of 1941. At that time, Snohomish County 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 Army Air Corps manned Paine Field from 1941 to 1946. During that time, they made improvements in the airbase and helped the community economically even though most of the commercial traffic came to a halt during the war. By the time World War II came to a close, the military presence at Paine Field was all but gone. In 1946, the airbase began to be returned to county supervision. The final transfer of property back to Snohomish County was complete in 1948.
Before the County could start planning for the continued development of a "super airport," the United States was again involved in an armed conflict—this time in Korea. When the Pacific Northwest defense installations were reviewed it was decided that a military presence would once again be felt at Paine Field. In 1951, a United States Air Force Aerospace Defense command unit was stationed at Paine Field and its name was officially changed to Paine Air Force Base. At that time, the 4753rd Air Base Squadron was designated as the principle organization. By January of 1952, the personnel roster totaled four officers and thirty-three airmen. 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, instead it set in place a shared-usage agreement. The airport conceded use of all of the commercial facilities other than the aviation services to provide housing for the troops. The Air Force also had priority over the use of the airport. The 4753rd Air Base Squadron was redesignated to the 86th Air Base Squadron which was later changed to the 529th Air Defense Group. In 1955, the 529th Air Defense Group gave way to the 326th Fighter Group (Air Defense). In 1961, the 326th Fighter Group was discontinued and was replaced by the 57th Fighter Group.
With these setbacks in place, the airport was redirected to develop an industrial business center. This new path focused on the development of intensive economic growth and increased revenues for the airport, providing large amounts of undeveloped land for civilian enterprises to build upon.
The Boeing 747
The year 1966 proved to be the pivotal year in the history of Snohomish County Airport. The Air Force had all but pulled out of Paine Field leaving it open for exclusive commercial considerations. The Boeing Company was looking for an area large enough to construct an assembly plant for the B-747. Land just north of Paine Field was chosen to construct the new facilities, including some development on the airport itself. Both the local government and the FAA concurred with the development.
The Boeing Company has been the largest business both in size and economic impact to come to Paine Field; however, many more businesses have followed Boeing's lead, including Aviation Technical Services (ATS) (formerly Goodrich Aerospace), which operates the largest aerospace repair facility in North America. Today, Snohomish County Airport is home to over fifty on-site businesses providing more than 30,000 jobs to the community.