History Corner

Enjoy personal and first-hand accounts of Paine Field's fantastic and rich history.

Glenn Humann
Paine Field history buff and long-time member of Paine Field's chapter of the Washington Pilot's Association
I recently found some pictures on the Internet related to Paine Field history at the Everett Public Library's on-line Digital Collection/Northwest Room site. Several of the pictures depict Alaska Airlines' previous use of airport facilities. You asked for more information regarding Alaska Airlines and their presence on Paine Field. I offer the following comments:

First some background trivia; Paine Field was created as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in 1936. By 1939 aircraft were operating from the airport. During 1940 and 1941 the Army leased the airport and established the Everett Army Airfield. In 1941 the Army Air Corps formally acquired the airport and named it after Everett native Lt. Topliff O. Paine. At the end of WWII the airport reverted back to Snohomish County control and civilian use. The military was completed removed from the airport by 1948. In about 1947- 48 Island Airways stopped at Paine Field. They flew UC-64 Noorduyn Norseman aircraft and operated out of the second flight line building east of the large WW II hangar. After they ceased operation, West Coast Airlines (later Hughes Air West) used the building as their terminal from about 1949-1950. They flew DC-3's on a scheduled route from Bellingham to Eugene, Oregon, with a branch to Port Angeles and another to Hoquiam.

Alaska Airlines was created in 1932 and grew by merging with other Alaska flight operations. At one time in the late 1940’s Alaska Airlines was the world’s largest charter airline and operated all over the world. In 1945 they were denied a scheduled airline route from Anchorage to Seattle by the Civil Aeronautics Board. However, they were successful in getting the route from Alaska to Seattle and Portland in 1951. I can’t confirm a specific year, but believe Alaska Airlines established a maintenance and overhaul facility at Paine Field in the late 1940’s in the hangar to the west of the WWII military hangar. From pictures it looks like they may have also utilized the large WW II hangar.

In 1951 Paine Field was reactivated by the Air Force and made a part of the Air Defense Command. From 1951–1968 the airport operated under joint military and civilian control. After military reactivation all civilian operations on the south side of the existing flight line (Willard Flying Service & Alaska Airlines) were eventually displaced. The large hangar, connected to the existing airport office, was built for Alaska Airlines use. In the 1950’s jet fighters were brought to the airport and the alert hangars were built, which is now the present hangar location of the ME-262 Project. Eventually Alaska built an overhaul and maintenance facility at Sea-Tac and moved from Paine Field in the mid 1960's. To the best of my knowledge, Alaska Airlines flew no scheduled revenue flights from Paine Field. 

Willard Flying Service was another aviation business that was displaced from the "old" flight line. General Aviation was pretty depressed in the early 1950's. Willard was about the only general aviation FBO at the time. Willard was displaced to a small WWII military building adjacent to a taxiway in the vicinity of the present RWY 16L 34R. About the same time, two sets of hangars constructed of corrugated metal were built about 75 yards to the south of Willard. In about 1953 the first set of existing concrete block hangars were built. In about 1980 a large metal building was constructed by the owners of Willard Flying Service for aircraft maintenance purposes. The original Willard building and the "tin" hangars were demolished to build RWY 16L 34R. The metal maintenance hangar was moved to its present location and is now occupied by Crown Aviation.

For what it's worth; the early tenants to the east of the old large WW II hangar (from right to left) were Tyee Flying Service (still have a presence on Paine), Island Airways / West Coast Airlines, Rust Flying Service, Willard Flying Service flight operations and Willard Flying Service maintenance. To the west of the hangar were Paine Field Flying Service and the Cessna Club (a branch of the then Snohomish Flying Service). Willard rented Aeronca Champions for $7.20 an hour solo and $10.20 dual. The Cessna club flew Cessna 120 / 140's, charged $35.00 a year membership and $4.00 an hour wet.

Bob Hieronymus
Patron from Bulverde, Texas
I arrived on Paine Field in October 1959 as a newly minted AFSC 30452, radio maintenance technician, Airman 2nd Class. When I arrived, the F-89s were already gone and the F-102s were operating daily. I know because I was working on the control tower radios and frequently saw the aircraft taking off and landing. I was selected for entry into the Airman's Education and Training Program (AECP) when the program opened in June 1960, so my stay there was short, but -- for me-- eventful. Under the supervision of a crusty old Master Sergeant, I was responsible for the control tower transmitters and receivers, including the CRD-6 radio direction finder and the instrument landing system transmitters, one of which was physically located on the Indian reservation a few miles from the base. That outer marker transmitter would occasionally go off the air and I would be called out, sometimes in the middle of the night, to go to the site, unlock the gate, enter the transmitter building, shut the system off, wait ten minutes, and turn it back on. It was a half hour drive each way and 15 minutes on site, but I got to drive the 1910 AACS Squadron, Detachment Two, pickup. What a thrill!