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Airport tower isn't staffed 24 hours

I heard on a newscast that the airport can't seed the fog after 9 p.m. because the airport tower is closed. Why is it closed when there are flights coming in all night?

— John B., via email

It's basically a matter of money, John. There's not enough money to provide tower staffing at all hours and without the staffing, fog seeding is not allowed by the feds.

After airport tower hours, pilots communicate directly with one another and with folks on the ground through a common traffic advisory frequency, sometimes referred to as "the party line," said Medford Airport Director Bern Case.

"We haven't had a 24-hour tower since the late '90s," Case said. "It's an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) decision. If there were enough dollars, towers would be open all the time."

The Medford airport tower is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily when there is more air traffic.

"It's not unusual for an airport this size not to have 24-hour towers," Case said, adding that smaller airports, such as those in Grants Pass and Ashland, don't have a tower at all.

As an extra precaution, the FAA prohibits the airport from using its unmanned, cloud-seeding, tethered balloon — CASPER (Cable Attached System Providing Effective Release) — after hours.

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 youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.