Since the creation of the first airport in 1909 by Wilbur Wright, cities and states have come together to create one of the most expansive airport systems in the world. Over the next few months, our writers have taken an in-depth look at each state to see what airports it has to offer, what its history entails, and what changes we can expect in the future that will continue to shape the airline industry.
Washington is one of the biggest hubs for aviation in the United States. Being home to Boeing’s two largest manufacturing plants, along with a growing global international airport with competing airlines, has created major draws for aviation enthusiasts and your everyday travelers as well to visit the Northwest corner of the United States.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — Seattle, WA
The largest airport in Washington is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), often referred to as SeaTac. The rapid growth of Seattle as a whole is reflected in the growth of the airport. In 2015, Seattle served over 42 million passengers and was ranked 13th busiest in America. However, it is projected that 2016 will make SeaTac a top 10 airport in the United States with an expected 45 million people to travel through. The largest carrier at SEA is Alaska Airlines, who operates their main hub out of the city. The next largest carrier is Delta Air Lines who has a rapidly growing hub at SEA. These two carriers, who used to have a close partnership, have slowly been growing apart as the battle for the city has heated up. Seattle sees many international visitors as well including British Airways, ANA, Lufthansa, and Emirates.
The airport was built by the Port of Seattle in 1944 after the United States military took control of nearby Boeing Field during World War Two. The airport slowly grew until there was four intersecting runways by June of 1951. With the threat of capacity being reached by the year 2000, a planning committee in 1992 said the best solution was to add a third runway. The third, and most recent runway, officially opened in late 2008.
Spokane International Airport — Spokane, WA
Spokane is the second largest city in Washington state and the largest on the eastside of the state. Spokane International (GEG) is also the second busiest airport in Washington. It serves the City of Spokane and most of Eastern Washington. With service provided by five airlines to 13 different destinations, the airport allows passengers to have a range of flight options. In 2014, Spokane International Airport ranked as the 71st busiest airport in the United States. The most common route out of Spokane is Alaska Airlines or their subsidiary, Horizon Airlines, to Seattle.
Bellingham International Airport — Bellingham, WA
Bellingham International Airport (BLI) is a relatively small, but busy airport in the north of Washington State. With its close proximity to Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, it is sometimes considered a low-cost alternate. At one time, the airport was a major west coast hub for ultra low-cost carrier, Allegiant Air. Currently, BLI sees service from three airlines to 13 destinations in the United States. Bellingham also features a large general aviation scene.
Tri-Cities Airport — Pasco, WA
Tri-Cities Airport (PSC), based in Pasco, is the largest airport serving the Tri-Cities in Southeastern Washington. The three runway airport sees service from four airlines serving nine destinations. By far the busiest flight from Pasco is to Seattle on Horizon Airlines or Delta Air Lines, serving 151,000 passengers from September 2015 to August of 2016. There is currently a large scale renovation going on that is planned to double the size of the current terminal.
King County International Airport — Seattle, WA
King County International Airport, or better known as Boeing Field (BFI), is known for its many Boeing test flights taking place at this airport as well as the delivery of most Boeing 737 series. Boeing Field is home to a large general aviation presence with a total of around 375,000 operations a year. BFI is also home to a great aviation attraction in Seattle, the Museum of Flight.
Snohomish County Airport — Everett, WA
While not a major passenger airport, Snohomish County Airport is very important in the aviation world. Also known as Paine Field (PAE), the airport is home to the main manufacturing plant for all Boeing Company widebody-aircraft. On an average day, an onlooker may see Boeing 747s, 777s, and 787s around the airport and conducting test flights nearby. In early 2016, there was an appeal by the City of Mukilteo to prevent commercial air service to the airport, however it was denied by a federal court.
Renton Municipal Airport — Renton, WA
Like Paine Field, Renton Municipal Airport (RNT), is not known for its commercial air service. Renton is home to Boeing’s 737 production facility and is where all 737s complete their first flight. Renton also hosts many flight schools for aspiring pilots.
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