Ramp design error a setback for remodeled airport

With major construction at the Medford airport in its final phases, airport officials are trying to figure out how to work around a jet ramp that no longer matches up with the passenger terminal.

The mechanical ramp that connects jets to the building is about three feet too tall for the new terminal and will either have to be retrofitted or sold in order to purchase a ramp that will work.

"It was a little bit of a setback," said Airport Director Bern Case.

He said there was a design error that didn't take into account the height of the old ramp. The airport is working with the manufacturer to see whether there is some way to modify it, Case said.

In any event, the jet ramp can't be used at this point because the old terminal is in the way, he said. The jet ramp allows passengers to load and unload directly from the plane into the terminal, rather than using stairs and walking across the tarmac.

Case said a replacement jet ramp that is the right height would cost about $750,000. The airport could sell its existing ramp for as much as $200,000 and use the funds to purchase a less-expensive, manually powered ramp, he said.

Jan Robertson, station manager with Skywest, which handles United Express and Delta Connection, said he would like to have access to a jet ramp.

"We use those whenever possible for our regional jets," he said. "I'll be interested to see how they resolve this."

For the moment, he agreed it was a moot point because the old terminal blocks access to the jetway area. Currently, Skywest uses another type of ramp that allows passengers, including those in wheelchairs, to load and unload from the tarmac. Other airlines use ramps or stairs.

Bill Keith, president and chief executive officer of KCI, Inc. in White City, said his company sells ramps that would connect a plane to the terminal for a cost of roughly $40,000 a unit.

These ramps are manually pushed into place rather than relying on motors and other equipment to power them.

"It accomplishes the same thing as a jet bridge, but it does it for $500,000 or $600,000 less," he said.

KCI manufactures both ramps and stairs for planes and jets.

Keith, who has been in contact with Case, said his ramps are currently used by Allegiant to allow passengers at the Medford airport to get easily from the tarmac to the plane.

Given the close proximity of his manufacturing plant to the airport, Keith said it would be possible to provide two or three of his ramps in Medford for about $100,000.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

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