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Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune

Construction is underway Wednesday on the taxiway at the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport. The work has changed takeoff patterns at the airport, which has not gone unnoticed by neighborhoods affected by the noise.

There’s a reason for wrong-way planes over Medford

Planes taking off from the Medford airport toward the south over heavily populated neighborhoods — a recent change from their usually northern path — are annoying local residents with the noise.

“On takeoff, at full throttle, you can really hear them,” said Bruce Harvey, a 71-year-old Medford resident.

Most of the time planes take off to the north, but for more than a month they’ve been roaring into the air over east Medford neighborhoods.

A pilot, Harvey said he’s surprised the planes are taking off to the south because it’s easier to take off into the prevailing wind that comes out of the north. He said taking off with the wind, instead of against it, requires greater runway length to gain enough lift to get off the ground.

Debbie Smith, interim airport spokeswoman, said construction taking place on the taxiway area has blocked planes from entering the runway on the south side of the airport since the end of May.

“That’s why airplane routes don’t seem as consistent or normal,” she said.

But there’s good news.

“The takeoff to the south is not permanent,” Smith said.

By the middle of July, the second phase of the reconstruction work on the taxiways should be completed, and the skies should be a lot friendlier over east Medford.

The work to upgrade the airport and meet the latest Federal Aviation Administration requirements is costing $9.97 million, with about 95 percent of the money coming from grants.

One of the main purposes of the work is to block off two access points for taxiing planes that could conflict with other planes that are landing or taking off on the runway. The FAA is requiring similar blocking-off of access points at other airports throughout the country.

Jeanie Stark, operations coordinator, said the project, which is focused primarily on the south end of the airfield, also will resurface or strengthen some areas accessed by planes, improve drainage and install new LED lighting.

During the night, from 12:50 a.m. to 5 a.m., the runway is closed to planes as construction takes place in the runway area. As a result, more plane activity has been taking place during the day.

Barricades have been placed in various areas where planes normally taxi around the runway. Some areas just east of the south cargo apron are closed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Construction traffic also uses various access locations around the runway.

Planes still take off toward the north during the construction, but the planes have to taxi all the way down the runway and then turn around.

“We appreciate everybody’s patience,” Stark said. “It’s a pain for everybody.”

Medford resident Michael Beard said he initially noticed the outgoing flights over the city in the morning.

“I have noticed more flights heading south throughout the day,” the 68-year-old said.

Beard said he’s relieved to hear that the airport should be getting back to normal once the work is complete.

“It was different, and I was hoping it wasn’t permanent,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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