The visibility at the Medford airport is often too little to land. There are airports around the country that suffer the same low ceilings and restricted visibility during the winter as Medford. Many of these have CAT III ILS approaches that allow operation in these conditions. Portland is one in Oregon. Why doesn’t Medford have a CAT III approach?
— Michael, Central Point
You’re right that the Medford airport doesn’t have a Category III Instrument Landing System to help pilots land safely on a runway when visibility is low due to heavy fog or wildfire smoke.
The airport does have a Category II system.
Upgrading to the better Category III system would allow airplanes to land in foggier conditions, said Jerry Brienza, airport director.
“You have CAT I, CAT II and CAT III systems — CAT III being the best. Basically, aircraft can land with almost zero visibility,” Brienza said.
Studies in the early 2000s showed the Table Rocks mesas were so tall and close to Medford that a Category III system couldn’t be used safely at the airport, he said.
But technology has improved since then. This year, the airport plans to start a master planning process to guide its next 20 years.
“In that master plan that we’re going to be embarking upon, we’re taking another look. We’ll do another study to see if we can install a CAT III system here because of the changes in technology,” Brienza said.
Meanwhile, the airport is continuing its battle against low-visibility conditions with its CAT II landing assist system and fog-seeding operations, which help temporarily clear fog from runways as pilots approach, he said.
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