The main runway at the Dane County Airport runs directly north and south. That means usually, Madison’s north and south sides hear the most plane noise.
But over the past week or so, the Isthmus has been hearing that plane noise instead. That’s because the airport is using side runways at different angles, as the main north-south runway undergoes construction and minor maintenance.
Diverting traffic around runways is much different than diverting traffic on the road. In a car, construction can mean a detour or extra traffic. But on a plane, moving past a construction zone is a major safety issue, for both construction workers and passengers alike. This means that any construction has to shut down the entire runway.
Instead, flight traffic has diverted to runways that run northeast to southwest, and northwest to southeast – resulting in planes, both military and commercial, flying straight over the isthmus.
Airport spokesman Michael Riechers says that construction on the airfields is a regular occurrence.
“This year we are focusing on the shoulders of our runways to make them stronger and improved. It’s going to help with the safety of our airplanes as they land, it’s also going to help with snow removal in the winter, getting the snow pushed off of the landing and take off surfaces. It’s summer in Wisconsin. We have a small window to get things done with construction, so it’s full steam ahead on getting things done around the airport,” Riechers says.
Riechers also says that the planes have not had to adjust their ascent or descent due to the change, other than what direction they fly in.
“My understanding is that, even on a regular approach path, the airplane isn’t going to be too low over the isthmus. I was commenting the other day, it is interesting that the planes aren’t flying any lower or slower, we don’t have an increase in traffic this month. It’s just that the planes are going on a slightly different path to land on a slightly different runway that has been the only change over the past couple of months. It’s just a different population of Madison that are noticing the traffic than other neighborhoods when they are landing on our runway,” Reicher says.
Where the planes land, though, does depend on the wind. If the wind is blowing from the north, planes fly right over the isthmus. But if the winds blow from the south, the planes have to fly into the northeast side of the airfield.
Riechers says that he hasn’t received too many complaints about the planes so far, from either Madison residents or airline pilots. He says that, once he explains what’s happening at the airport, most people take it lightheartedly.
Construction on the main runways is scheduled to be finished by early July. However, Riechers says that their next project, starting early in July, is construction on International Lane, right in front of the airport. He says that people heading to and from the airport should leave a little bit earlier than usual.
Photo courtesy: Chali Pittman / WORT News