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Aircraft noise is measured in A-weighted decibels (dBA) which approximates the way humans hear sound. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) both recognize and use the same metric for aircraft noise measurement. The industry standard for determining long-term aircraft noise exposure around airports is done using a methodology called Day/Night Average Noise Level (DNL), also known as LDN. The FAA has developed a computer model called the Integrated Noise Model (INM) which integrates the DNL metric to depict the noise exposure levels from aircraft around an airport onto a base map into noise contours of equal DNL, usually, into contour lines of 55, 60, 65, 70, and 75 DNL. Each aircraft noise event is logarithmically averaged over a 24 hour period with a 10 decibel noise penalty added to all aircraft operations that occur between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. This penalty is applied during the time most people are trying to rest. Paine Field’s Part 150 Noise Study and noise contour maps can be found here.
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Paine Field has two runways, both with a north/south orientation designated as 16R/34L and 16L/34R:
16L/34R is located on the east side of the airfield and is designated as a general aviation runway with an overall length of 3,004 feet. 16L/34R has an east traffic pattern and is closed from 9 p.m. - 7 a.m. for noise abatement purposes.
16R/34L is located on the west side of the airfield and is Paine Field’s primary use runway for jet and large aircraft operations with an overall length of 9,010 feet. 16R has a precision approach instrument landing system (ILS) and 34L has a non-precision GPS approach procedure.
There are many factors that go into selecting a runway for a specific operation:
Wind. Prevailing wind is the most influential factor in determining north or south aircraft flow direction.
Air Traffic congestion and safe separation requirements. Aircraft under the instruction of an air traffic controller will often be directed to a runway that creates the least amount of congestion and provides safe aircraft separation.
Instrument approach procedures. During low visibility operations, aircraft will rely on Runway 16R’s precision approach instrument landing system (ILS) for arrivals.*14 CFR 91.123 - The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.
Paine Field was constructed in 1936 as a project that was intended to boost economic growth in the region. An undeveloped area was selected for the airfield. The U.S. Army Air Forces took control of the airport shortly after construction and the military maintained control of the airfield until 1968, when the property was permanently transferred to Snohomish County’s authority. During this 32-year period, the surrounding land was acquisitioned for military housing and support facilities. This land was subsequently transferred to civilian control along with the airport. Paine Field does not own or control zoning regulation over the land surrounding the airfield. Over the years communities and neighborhoods have continued to grow near the airport.
In accordance with federal law and to comply with FAA grant assurances, the airfield is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to all users of the National Airspace system.
Airport Operations personnel are on site daily from 6 a.m. to midnight, with a specialist on-call for overnight emergencies. Paine Field has a 24-hour fire-rescue and law enforcement presence through our partner agencies. The FAA operated Air Traffic Control Tower is open from 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. seven days a week.
The airport utilizes two Larson Davis model #831 noise monitors at the following locations:
North Mukilteo near Japanese Gulch. PAE#1 collects noise data on runway 16R arrivals and 34L departures.
Lynnwood near Lake Serene. PAE#3 collects noise data on runway 34L arrivals and 16R departures.
City, county and state noise regulations, as they pertain to noise generated by aircraft in flight and activities related to flight operations, are preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration. State and municipal code makes specific exemptions for noise generated that is directly related to flight activities:
Snohomish County Noise Control Code applies to Paine Field. Everett Municipal Noise Control Code applies to the Boeing Co. plant and flightline.
Sounds originating from aircraft in flight and sounds which originate at airports and are directly related to flight operations are exempt at all times by Snohomish County Code 10.01.050(1)(a), Mukilteo Municipal code 9.30.030 and Everett Municipal Code 20.08.100(B)(5).
Jet engine run-ups during nighttime (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.) are prohibited by Snohomish County Code 10.01.050(2)(g) and Everett Municipal Code 20.08.050(A) except where demonstrated proof that the noise level limitations of the noise control code are not exceeded by the jet engine run-up or the operator possesses a Modified Standards Permit per Snohomish County Code 10.01.060 or a variance per Everett Municipal Code 20.08.150.
Though Paine Field’s operations department’s top priority is on airfield safety and ensuring compliance with FAA regulations, we take great efforts to be a good neighbor to the surrounding communities. All noise comments are recorded in a comprehensive database, investigated using both radar tracks and radio monitoring, and presented in monthly reports available on our website. The airport has established several voluntary noise abatement procedures including recommended arrival and departure procedures, operational curfews for large jet traffic and training aircraft, and an augmented traffic pattern for late night and early morning propeller aircraft operations. The airport also closes runway 16L/34R from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. to reduce the number of small aircraft flying over populated areas.
The FAA institutes international standards for jet engine noise that are applied when an aircraft manufacturer acquires an airworthiness certification. The Reform Act of 2012 mandated a complete phase-out and ban on Stage 2 jet engines, the loudest aircraft engines, effective December 31, 2015, meaning all civilian aircraft currently operating meet maximum noise level standards set by the FAA. Therefore, Paine Field does not restrict any airworthy aircraft operation.
Paine Field has an FAA Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) that is staffed daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is responsible for issuing taxi, departure and arrival/approach clearances to aircraft using the airfield. Aircraft inbound to Paine Field will be under the instruction of Sea-Tac’s FAA Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility (TRACON) until they reach Paine Field’s airspace, at which time they are “handed off” to our ATCT.
The airport itself does not have authority over National Airspace System (aircraft in flight) and is charged with the responsibility of maintaining and assuring that the physical facilities of the airport (runways, taxiways, lighting, etc.) are safe for aircraft to use in compliance with strict FAA standards.
*14 CFR 91.123 - The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.
Paine Field is home to several companies that specialize in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance services, as well as more-than 500 based general aviation aircraft. Many of these operators rely on international scheduling and aircraft flow limitations, crew rest requirements, and an operational need to fly during nighttime hours. As a result, the airport has no mandatory curfew. A curfew implies a legal or statutory prohibition against operating during certain hours. The airport is owned by Snohomish County and managed as a public-use facility open 24 hours a day. The airport does have several voluntary noise abatement procedures in place. Airfield use also is restricted to a single runway from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. to reduce nighttime traffic pattern noise.
In accordance with 14 CFR 91.119, except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an airplane over a congested area of a city, town or settlement at an altitude less than 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle or within a horizontal radius of less than 2,000 feet of an aircraft; or an altitude of less than 500 feet from any person, vessel, vehicle or structure in non-congested areas. A helicopter may be operated at less than the prescribed minimums provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA.
Paine Field – Snohomish County Airport has partnered with the Federal Aviation Administration to better track, manage, and respond to noise comments. Commenters located further than 10 miles from Paine Field are asked to submit their noise comment directly to the FAA or your closest airport. This will help ensure that the proper authority is receiving your comments. Comments submitted to Paine Field that are outside the 10-mile boundary will be forwarded to the FAA. Additional information regarding the FAA noise management program can be found on the Northwest Mountain Region Aircraft Noise Page.
If you live within 10 miles of Paine Field – Snohomish County Airport please submit your noise comment here or through our noise hotline by calling (425) 284-0500.
If you live further than 10 miles from Paine Field – Snohomish County Airport please submit your noise comment to the Federal Aviation Administration by using their online portal found here.