The Jet Set
BY BRYAN CORLISS
Propeller Airports – the private company that operates the passenger terminal at Everett’s Paine Field – has expanded its presence at Snohomish County Airport.
Last fall, Propeller acquired the Everett operations of Castle & Cooke Aviation, the airport’s fixed base operator, or FBO to use industry lingo. It created a new subsidiary – Propeller Aero Services – to operate the business.
Later this year, it will start work on a new terminal and hangar complex at the airport, which will serve business and general aviation. The new FBO terminal will be separate from the commercial airline terminal that Propeller opened in March 2019, except that it will bring its award winning customer service practices and attention to detail that have made the passenger terminal the airport of choice for metro Seattle.
As the region continues to grow, there is demand for additional infrastructure to serve the general aviation and corporate communities, Propeller CEO Brett Smith said.
Our goal is to bring the same award-winning, world-class service and operational excellence to our private aviation clients that our airline passengers have come to expect.
Propeller plans to build a a state-of-the-art terminal for business jet flyers, and hangar facilities that are desperately needed. When combined with an existing hangar, Propeller expects to have over 60,000 square feet of hangar space at the airport, with enough room to shelter Bombardier Global 7500s, a business jet capable of carrying 19 passengers.
And after that’s finished, Propeller plans to renovate Paine Field’s existing general aviation terminal, to create space dedicated for pilots and passengers of light aircraft.
The acquisition of Castle & Cooke’s operations and the new construction plan will “generate economic development for Snohomish County and benefit the airport and its users,” Smith said. “We’re very excited.”
FIXED BASE OPERATIONS
Fixed base operators are key to successful airport operations. They are typically private businesses that contract with airport operators to provide a range of essential functions for aircraft that fly in and out of an airfield.
Castle & Cooke, for example, provided fueling and related aircraft support serves such as catering, aircraft cleaning, maintenance and de-icing. It also provided ground services for air cargo and car rental services for aircrew and passengers arriving on private planes.
Propeller Aero Services has announced plans to offer all those functions, plus provide additional ones. When the FBO terminal is finished, it will have a large conference room — allowing business travelers to fly in for meetings at the airport — plus a theater room, a catering kitchen and a pilot lounge with a sleeping area.
RECOVERING FROM COVID
Propeller Airport’s new Paine Field airline terminal opened in February 2019, and in its first year of operations, it saw 1.1 million passengers pass through on 24 daily flights operated by Alaska and United airlines. Paine Field also landed on two different lists of the top small airports in the United States.
In all, it was a great start.
But weeks after the airport celebrated its one millionth passenger, the pandemic hit, causing a bit of turbulence. Air travel plunged 60 percent in the United States in 2020, while the total global market fell by nearly 66 percent. The International Air Transport Association called it “a catastrophe.”
Last year, 2021, was marginally better, but surges from the Delta and Omicron Covid variants made for an uneven recovery.
Paine Field was not immune.
But as global air travel has recovered, so has traffic at Paine Field and Propeller has remained as committed as ever to the long term success of the airport Last year, Alaska announced it would resume its full schedule of 18 daily flights by the spring of this year. Then in January, it announced plans to add larger Boeing-built 737s on routes serving Phoenix and Las Vegas from Paine Field.
…it will have a large conference room — allowing business travelers to fly in for meetings at the airport — plus a theater room, a catering kitchen and a pilot lounge with a sleeping area.
The bigger planes will serve second daily flights in the afternoon to both locations, said Alaska Airlines spokesman Ray Lane. “We’re seeing stronger demand for leisure destinations such as Phoenix and Las Vegas,” he said.
We’re seeing stronger demand for leisure destinations such as Phoenix and Las Vegas.
These are two of the most-popular routes from Everett. Up-gauging to 737 aircraft allows us to better meet the demand we’re seeing for sunny destinations.
This marks the first time that mainline passenger jets have flown from the Paine Field terminal. Previously, both Alaska and United had operated Embraer 175 regional jets, which carry about half as many passengers.
If market conditions are right, Lane said, Alaska will consider putting 737s on additional Paine Field routes in the future.
Smith founded Propeller Airports in 2008, and the company continues to look for what he calls “P-3” opportunities (public-private partnerships) in the airport sector, similar to the one Propeller has with Snohomish County, which owns Paine Field.
In January, the company brought on a new chief counsel, Jack Rossi, and a vice president of business development, Matt Shelby.
We regularly hear from passengers that they love the terminal experience at Paine Field, Shelby said.
Our goal is to bring that exceptional level of service to more communities across the country.
Photos Courtesy of Propeller Aero Services