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This article appeared in the Mail Tribune on 10-22-01 Archived here

Alternative landing spots are available for private aviators

By MEG LANDERS

Steve Pankonin prefers flying his single-engine plane into small airports rather than into those the size of Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport because he can make his own landing decisions independent of a control tower.

"The advantage of it is, you don't have to have anything to do with the radio control," says the part owner of the Beagle Sky Ranch Airport in Sam's Valley.

Beagle Sky Ranch is one of the many private airports local pilots use as an alternative to the Medford airport. From state-owned to municipal to private, the Rogue Valley offers many options to private aviators.

John Keener, retired wing commander with the Civil Air Patrol, is familiar with all the airport options.

"There are 27 strips that a private plane can land on," says the Medford pilot. While not all of those are open to the public, some private owners are known to give permission when asked, he says. Keener says he's flown in and out of many of them and finds them all adequate for small planes.

"There really aren't any limitations for light general aviation," he says.

In the week following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, general aviation experienced a total shutdown nationwide as a security precaution. But pilots report that flying has resumed as normal.

Pankonin, a pilot for 38 years, flies an average of 75 to 100 hours per year and bases his three planes out of Beagle Sky Ranch. He also owns Steve's Aircraft, an aircraft maintenance business located at the airport. With 25 single-engine planes based on the field, he says, the airport is used primarily by recreational private aircraft.

Small airstrips are just as safe as the developed airports, says Pankonin, as long as pilots use common sense.

"If they're not following the common-sense rules," he says, "that's when people get in trouble."

ALTERNATE AIRPORTS

Ashland Municipal, Sumner Parker Field - city owned, open to the public. Contact the airport at 482-7675.

Features 3,603-foot asphalt runway, has 80 aircraft based on the field and handles up to small citation jets.

Aircraft operations: up to 100 per day in summer.

Illinois Valley Airport, Cave Junction - county owned, open to the public. Contact Josephine County Airports at 1-541-955-4535.

Features 5,200-foot asphalt runway, has 20 aircraft based on field and handles up to light jets.

Aircraft operations: 100 per week.

Grants Pass Airport, Merlin - county owned, open to public. Contact Josephine County Airports at 1-541-955-4535.

Features 4,000-foot asphalt runway, has 120 aircraft based on field and handles up to light jets.

Operations: 1,000 per week.

Pinehurst State Airport - open to public. Contact Oregon Department of Aviation at 1-503-378-4880.

Features 2,800-foot asphalt runway, has seven aircraft based on field and handles small, single-engine planes only.

Operations: 400 per year.

Prospect State Airport - open to public. Contact Oregon Department of Aviation at 1-503-378-4880.

Features 4,000-foot asphalt runway, has one aircraft based on field and handles up to light twin-engines.

Operations: 1,000 per year.

Beagle Sky Ranch Airport - private, with owner's permission only. Contact Steve Pankonin, Steve's Aircraft, 826-9729.

Features 3,300-foot gravel runway, has 25 aircraft based on field and handles up to light twin-engine planes.

Rogue Air Airport, Shady Cove - private, with owner's permission only. Contact Robert Sloat at 878-2766.

Features 1,800-foot turf runway, has nine aircraft based on field and handles mostly single-engine planes.

Springbrook Airport, near Wimer - private, with owner's permission only. Contact Paul Johnson at 1-541-582-2139.

Features 2,400-foot composite runway, has one aircraft based on field and handles mostly single-engine planes.