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Medford's runway

Since you asked

is longer than Chicago's On the news last week, a plane skidded off the runway and into traffic in Chicago. They said the runway was 6,500 feet and it was one of the shortest runways in the United States. So this got me to wondering how long our runway is at the Medford International Airport?

' Tracy O. Shady Cove

That's the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport to you, Tracy. We're hearing that soft welcome announcement from the airport's PA system playing on a continuous loop in our heads right now.

The runway at Chicago's Midway Airport is 6,522 feet, according to the Chicago Tribune. By today's standards, that's awful short.

Medford airport's runway was 6,700 feet until a &

36;14 million project lengthened it to 8,800 feet in 2000. New lighting and guidance systems were added at the same time.

— The extension allows much larger and heavier planes to land at the airport, boosting cargo capacity. The airport now hosts regular visits from one of the world's largest cargo planes, the Antonov AN-124-100. That behemoth hauls Erickson Air-Crane helicopters around the globe from the company's Central Point production and maintenance site.

Midway Airport in Chicago is almost an anachronism. According to the Chicago Tribune, it is in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood, with homes and small businesses butting up against the perimeter of the airport, which covers a total of just — square mile. Because the airport was built in the age of propeller planes and is landlocked by the neighborhood, it has abnormally short runways. If you've seen an overhead image of it, its runways basically make a big X tightly encased in a box of runway aprons. There is almost no room for error.

In addition to the runway extension, the Medford airport has considerably more room at the ends of its runways than Midway does. And, thankfully, we don't have Chicago's foul winter weather to contend with.

Send questions to Since You Asked, Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to Since you asked"youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.