Washington State legislator’s Aviation Initiative

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Picking a location for a new airport, other aviation issues before lawmakers

Bill which would enhance state’s support of aviation

Strong witnesses testify in support

The only professional pilot in the Washington State legislature, District 13 Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake. has proposed four aviation specific bills:

HB1683 to evaluate the best location for a new airport by a Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission established to evaluate the best location for a new airport

HB 1456 would create a community aviation revitalization loan program to support public-use airport improvements.

HB 1457 would redistribute aircraft fuel tax revenue to add funds to the state aviation account

HB 1397 would expand the Washington Department of Transportation’s supervision area to include electric aircraft and assessing infrastructure needs related to this developing technology.

The package received a good deal of support from other members and witnesses, for example:

District 33 Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, prime sponsor, represents the SEA-TAC community. Support from the largest airport in the state anchors the politics involved in considering new airports.

Central Terminal at Sea-Tac Airport, 29 April 2014

Steve Edmiston, a member of the state department of commerce’s aviation impact study committee, testified in support of the bill.

‘I call this a ‘what’s not to like’ bill because of the statewide economic impacts that this bill can create,’ said Edmiston. Economic impacts are ‘no longer reserved for an isolated piece of geography,’ he said. “That has been our model at SeaTac since 1947.”








“A representative from Central Washington University Central Washington University, which has the only four-year aviation program in the western United States, testified in support because… both bills support small airports used in the university’s program.”

“Chris Herman from the Washington Aviation Alliance testified in support of the bill, saying it would allow the state to unlock more federal funding that previously was unavailable due to the state being unable to meet match-funding requirements.”





The FAA staff, who administer the AIP discretionary funds, look favorably upon applications from airports with strong support from states with robust contributing aviation accounts. The local and then state participations are recognized as multipliers of the federal moneys; the “more bang for the buck” aphorism is considered as legitimate in Washington, DC

The creation of a Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC) has good and not so good attributes. A decision to build a new airport or to expand an existing one is politically risky. The neighbors want to crucify any such proponent and the business interests will frequently find such an elected official as attractive. Without being able to read the specifics of HB 1863, one may assume that the Commissioners might be independent and not subject to such pro and con responses. That credibility sometimes provides a foundation for the Governor, parties and others to endorse the wisdom of a CACC like recommendation.

However, as famed political scientist and Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, once proclaimed “ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL”, the value of a somewhat disassociated commission may also be a liability in that the CACC process may not build the support within the selected site’s community. Though painful, working with the locals from Day 1 is necessary to reaching anything remotely resembling a consensus.




The Washington State Department of Transportation Aviation (WSDOT Aviation) appears to be a well-established and well organized office to deal with airports on a state-wide basis. Its website includes:


  • Airport Land Use Compatibility Program capable of protecting existing assets from incompatible use and assuring that future aviation expansion is environmentally responsible
  • WSDOT Aviation manages 16 state-managed airports, nine airports are state-owned, three are operated by special use permit, three are leased, and one is operated through a right of entry






Tieton State Airport

Site of frequent firefighting activity

WSDOT seems to already be capable to administer the programs proposed by this legislation. Some added energy may derive from the bill’s inclusion of funds for involvement with electric aircraft and assessing infrastructure needs related to this developing technology.

Rep. Dent and fellow Washington legislators should be commended for this initiative.


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