2017 in review: New Airport runway numbering and firefighting station

The year 2017 was not only a busy one at King County International Airport/Boeing Field, it was also an historic one.

new-runway-numberNew runway numbers: For the first time in a half-century,  the runway numbers at the Airport field were changed to keep pace with the earth’s shifting magnetic field. The numbers are tied directly to our location in relation to the globe’s magnetic poles, which create the magnetic field that directs compasses and other navigational devices. That field is generated within the planet’s core and is constantly shifting.

For 50 years or so Boeing Field’s Main Runway in relation to the earth’s magnetic field had been approximately 130 degrees in one direction and 310 degrees the other way. These numbers were assigned to the runway, hence the former runway number of 13R/31L. Based on new measurements, the FAA assigned numbers for our main and utility runways – which help direct take-offs and landings – and these officially changed in August:

  • The Main Runway (previously 13R/31L) became 14R/32L
  • The Utility Runway (previously 13L/31R) became 14L/32R

Historical photos taken more than 70 years ago show a Boeing Field runway labeled 12/30, showing that the shift in the earth’s magnetic field has continued over time.

arff_5New ARFF Station: April saw the dedication of the new Luther Dean Bonner Memorial Aircraft & Fire Fighting Station, named after a Seattle firefighter who responded when a Boeing B-29 bomber crashed into a meatpacking plant near the airfield in 1943. He died while battling the fire in the warehouse, along with the plane’s pilot, 10 members of the flight crew and 20 workers inside the plant.

The $5 million construction cost of the 8,500-square-foot facility was almost entirely paid for by the FAA. It is more energy efficient and is built to withstand a major earthquake. The new station is located in the exact location and essentially the same footprint as the previous facility.

More than 170 people attended the dedication ceremony emceed by King County Council Chair Joe McDermott, who introduced the legislation in 2016 to name the new facility after Bonner, who never received a proper tribute for a fallen firefighter. Bonner’s story was largely forgotten until a retired firefighter/historian recovered Bonner’s story in 2009.

DOENational recognition for Main Terminal: The U.S. Department of Energy recognized our recent improvements at the historic Main Terminal building to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Maria Vargas, Director of DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge initiative, visited the Airport and commended our efforts, as well as King County’s commitment to energy efficiency. The Airport proved that, even in older buildings, cost-effective deep energy savings are possible with new technology. The investments we made resulted in an energy savings of more than 60 percent over the previous year. Improvements included:

  • Eliminating the use of natural gas for building heat
  • Installing a state-of-art heating and cooling system to replace the building’s aging and energy-intensive unit
  • Installing LED lights throughout the building interior and exterior

The work involved adding advanced lighting controls, upgrading our mechanical and lighting systems and installing new, energy efficient lights. We also installed a large overhead fan in the terminal lobby that reduces the load on the HVAC system.

signatureNew Signature Flight terminal: This year one of our Fixed-Base Operators (FBO), Signature Flight Support of Orlando, Florida, cut the ribbon on its new facility here, an $11.5 million, 6,250-square-foot executive terminal, located just north of our Main Terminal. Top leaders with the world’s largest fixed-based operation and distribution network for business aviation services attended a celebration in August, including President and Chief Operating Officer Maria Sastre. In addition to being a state-of-the-art building that features modern architecture, Signature Flight Support’s terminal is environmentally friendly, including an experimental system for storm water management.

Gateway to the Northwest: As always, KCIA helped connect the world to the region. In May, we welcomed nearly 100 business and executive aircraft that were tied directly to the Microsoft CEO Summit at the company’s Redmond campus. Those aircraft carried some of the world’s most successful, innovative and high-profile business and organizational figures. The effort required detailed coordination. During the event, aircraft lined the perimeter of the runway, which required intense choreography and planning between the Airport and three of its largest FBO’s. Airport and tenants coalesced around a plan in a matter of weeks. The trio of FBO’s – Signature Flight Support, Kenmore Aero and Clay/Lacy Aviation – began to notify the Airport that it would be hosting several large, executive aircraft.

We also helped welcome various world leaders to the Northwest, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. We helped connect hundreds of pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey with regional animal shelters. And for the second straight year, we helped welcome Seattle Sounders FC back from an MLS Cup match. We look forward an even busier and robust 2018.


Published by

Frank Abe, King County DOT

Senior Strategic Communications Advisor to the Director of the King County Department of Transportation