Noise FAQs

• What is Paine Field’s airport configuration?

Paine Field has two active 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 3,004ft. 16L/34R has an east traffic pattern and is closed from 9pm – 7am 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 ft. 16R has a precision approach instrument landing system (ILS) and 34L has a non-precision GPS approach procedure.

• What determines runway use and the direction aircraft arrive and depart the airport?

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 vectored 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.

• Why is Paine Field so close to residential neighborhoods?

Paine Field was originally constructed in 1936 as a project that was intended to boost economic growth in the region and an undeveloped area was selected the airfield. The US 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, and over the years communities and neighborhoods have continued to encroach on the airport perimeter.

• When does the airport close?

The airport is staffed Monday – Friday from 8am – 5pm, however, 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. The Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) is open from 7am – 9pm, 7 days a week.

• Does Paine Field monitor noise levels?

  • The airport utilizes 3 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.
  • West Mukilteo in Harbour Heights Park. PAE#2 collects noise data on aircraft using the west traffic pattern (16R/34L).
  • Lynnwood near Lake Serene: PAE#3 collects noise data on runway 34L arrivals and 16R departures.

• How is aircraft noise measured?

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.

• Do aircraft have to comply with local city, county and state noise ordinances?

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 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 runs during nighttime (10pm – 7am) 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 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.


• What does the airport do to mitigate aircraft noise in the community?

Though Paine Field’s operations department’s number one concentration is on airfield safety and adherence with FAA regulation, we take great efforts to be a good neighbor to the surrounding communities. All noise inquiries are recorded in a comprehensive database, investigated using both radar tracks and radio monitoring, and responded to in a timely manner. The airport imposes several voluntary noise abatement practices 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 focuses on pilot and airfield tenant noise abatement education, including monthly noise reports generated specifically for each major airfield tenant.

• Can the airport restrict certain aircraft from using the airfield?

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.

• Who controls what flight path jet aircraft fly and at what altitude?

Paine Field has an FAA Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) that is staffed daily from 7am – 9pm and is responsible for issuing taxi, departure and arrival/approach clearances to aircraft utilizing 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 accordance 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.

• Why do aircraft arrive and depart at night and in the early morning, isn’t there a curfew?

Paine Field is home to several companies that specialize in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance services; as well as over 600 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 Snohomish County Airport is a public-use facility open 24 hours a day. The airport does have several voluntary noise abatement programs in place for after hour operations (9pm – 7am). It is a completely voluntary program whereby repetitive training and air carrier operations are strongly discouraged. Airfield use is also restricted to a single runway from 9pm – 7am to reduce nighttime traffic pattern noise. More information about Paine Field’s noise abatement procedures can be found here.

• What is the minimum altitude an aircraft can fly over my residence?

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 1,000ft above the highest obstacle or within a horizontal radius of less than 2,000ft of an aircraft; or an altitude of less than 500ft 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.

• Who do I contact if I have an inquiry regarding Paine Field noise or flight operations?

There are two methods for submitting a noise inquiry:

  • An online noise submittal form is available here.
  • A Noise Hotline is also available at 425-388-5125 ext. 4

Please provide as much information as possible to assist us in researching your noise or operation inquiry including:

  • Date & Time – Please include am or pm
  • Aircraft type – Jet, propeller, multiengine, etc.
  • Location – address of event

• Is there a Paine Field Community Council I can contact?

Yes. The Paine Field Community Council was formed in 1980 as a result of the Airport's Mediated Role Determination. A primary purpose of the Community Council is to review, assess, and make recommendations to the Airport Director and/or affected governmental entities with regard to the Airport, especially items impacting the spirit and letter of the mediated agreement. In addition, the Community Council promotes mutual cooperation and understanding between the Airport, residential communities, and airport users. The Community Council currently meets three times a year and reviews current issues relating to the Airport and provides input to the Airport Director and Staff. Council members receive no compensation for their efforts. They are expected to provide effective liaison with their constituents.

Meetings are held the second Tuesday of February, June, and October (unless a legal holiday) @ 7:00 pm.
Meetings are typically held at: Future of Flight, 8415 Paine Field Boulevard Mukilteo, WA 98275. More information can be found here.

*Location, date and time are subject to change. Please check the calendar of events or current agenda for current information.