Photos by Steve Shay
SeaTac Airport and Port officials gave the annual "Airport 101" tour Sept. 21, one of four of the Port of Seattle's annual public "101" tours. This year's focus was on the Port Commission's "Century Plan", a 25-year reach into its future with such stated goals as SeaTac Airport becoming increasingly environmentally responsible, and 100,000 more jobs.

Clean air, water, runways, & new jobs highlighted on public SeaTac Airport tour

SeaTac Airport officials gave the "Airport 101" tour Thursday, Sept. 21, one of four of the Port of Seattle's annual "101" tours. We reported on their Sept. 12 Duwamish 101 tour. Their Cargo Terminals tour is Oct. 3, their Ship Canal tour one week later. The Port 101 Series allows the public to tour the Ship Canal, Airport, Duwamish River and the port's industrial Cargo terminals for a first-hand view.

This year, the Airport 101 tour focused on the Port Commission's "Century Plan", a 25-year reach into its future with such stated goals as becoming increasingly environmentally responsible. Tour officials noted that the ever-expanding airport means more jobs, and estimates that the shipping port and airport, now responsible for 200,000 related jobs, should increase to 300,000 over the next 25 years. To clarify, the term "Century Plan" commemorates the establishment of the Port in 1911.

Mark Reis, SeaTac's Managing Director, emphasized the importance of international, non-stop flights at SeaTac.

"Analysis shows that between 200 million and 500 million dollars a year (enters) a community from adding one daily international flight," he said. "It's not just moving the plane in and out. It results from businesses to expand here because they can fly some of their destinations nonstop (…) We just got the data for growth in August and our international traffic has grown at a rate 10 times our domestic traffic. We've added nine new non-stop international flights in the last five years. This year we've added two. One was ANA, All Nippon Airways a national carrier of Japan, started in July to Tokyo. They will switch to a 787 in October, the first daily 787 (flight) in the United States.

Emirates Airline from Dubai also started non-stop service here (...) Dubai is a gateway to most of the world, in particular to south Asia, India, Pakistan, Africa. Eighty percent of the world's population lives within an 8-hour flight from Dubai."

He added that next year they will finish construction of 44 replacement escalators, and in 2016 the final runway will be resurfaced. In 20 years the airport will be able to increase capacity to 60 million passengers annually, up from 33 million currently.

Airport 101 toured the new, 2.1 million square foot, LEED Silver certified consolidated car rental facility that opened May 17, a $419 million project that includes Washington State's "largest gas station" with 96 fueling pumps, and car washes with over 80-percent recycled water. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) consists of a suite of rating systems for the design and operation of green facilities and homes.

Because the facility, which contracts with 14 rental companies, is off-site, a 7-minute or so commute from the airport terminals on a consolidated compressed natural gas (CNG) bus shuttle cuts emissions on vehicles that would otherwise be on the streets. It cuts traffic, too, considering up to 14,000 cars are rented on a peak day. Also, the "old-school" car rental facilities fill up the tanks and wash the cars sometimes miles from the facility, burning more gas and using non recycled water.

The tour buses rolled along the tarmac, safely skirting the runways and planes taking off and landing, passing gate bound winged giants, the usual suspects, Alaska and Delta, plus an Icelandic jet, a "Condor" owned by Thomas Cook, a Virgin Air craft, several Fed-Ex jets, and an unusual, parked lime green aircraft. It resembles an amusement park ride, but is serious business, a training plane for SeaTac's firefighters.

Robert Duffner, Environmental Compliance Manager at SeaTac, explained that it is what you don't see that is making a huge environmental difference, at least in the case of the underground fuel lines.

"Instead of fuel tankers, we've installed an underground hydrant system in 2006 which reduces the number of diesel powered trucks (on the tarmac) and reduces annual emissions of over 10,000 tons of particulate matter, 300 tons of nitric oxides, and 950 tons of carbon dioxide."

Through federal grants, 600 gas and diesel vehicles servicing the planes like tugs and baggage cars will soon be electric-powered.

The "fuel farm" as they call it, a cluster of enormous tanks south of the terminals, stores approximately 22 million gallons of jet fuel, and connects underground with the Olympic Pipeline in Anacortes. Duffner said during the busiest time of year, July and August, "We flow one to 1.3 million gallons of fuel a day."

This eliminates the need to fuel vehicles to drive back and forth to the fuel farm and he said it is also safer to flow fuel underground.

As part of mitigation for the third runway, 68 acres of wetlands near the airport were created, and another 80 in Auburn. In Miller Creek, which runs along the west side of the airport, salmon spawn, just 200 yards west the center of the third runway.

SeaTac is the leading airport on "avian radar". The airport works with the University of Illinois through the FAA and has three different radars on the airfield, part of a project they hep will track different migratory patterns of birds. They have traps to relocate transient hawks, and have relocated 300 in 10 years. They release them near Bellingham where they have a better food supply.

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