Why is the flight path for the Corvallis Airport over the heavily populated area rather than away from it? Is this really something that cannot be changed, or attempted to be changed?
This question comes up each year when the weather gets nicer and people start working outside or keeping their windows open. This approach can’t be changed because it is the all-weather Instrument Landing System (ILS) precision approach to Runway 17, our main runway. Instrument landing systems are one of two types of precision approaches which allow an aircraft to safely land in all types of weather. Usually, they are only found at commercial airports because they cost millions of dollars. Ours was installed in the 1980’s when commercial flights were operating out of Corvallis. It is maintained by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is part of what draws business jets and charter flights into Corvallis, especially in the winter. It is setup on our main runway coming from the north because 70% of the time that is where the prevailing winds are coming from (the south). The safest direction for aircraft to land is into the wind. Aircraft use that approach each day, usually one or two dozen aircraft, including the US Army National Guard helicopters from Salem, the USCG helicopters from Newport and Astoria, FEDEX, UPS, business jets, and our local REACH Air Medical air ambulance. REACH requires this approach for operation out of Corvallis. They use it when returning from ambulance calls at night and in bad weather, and would have to relocate to another airport if the ILS was shutdown. Again, no other runway or direction would work for this approach. While we could ask the FAA to decommission the ILS at Corvallis, they normally require the airport sponsor (City of Corvallis in this case) to repay the FAA for the last 20 years of maintenance and improvements that have been made to that system. This is one of the “Grants and Assurances” we signed as part of our acceptance of FAA grant funds over the years. This would also reduce and possibly eliminate any business or charter aircraft coming into Corvallis, especially in the winter and bad weather months. Why is this approach used during the nice weather when you can see forever? Pilots are required to recertify on this system regularly, and they are not allowed to practice or get this certification training in bad weather.