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The Earth moved … and a runway had to change its name

The Earth moved … and a runway had to change its name


So there I was at a Corvallis City Council meeting listening to the annual report of the city’s airport advisory board … when something caught my ear.

Lanny Zoeller, the board chair, was talking about a project that is about to get underway on one of the runways, 9/27. Then he noted, without an ounce of irony, that the runway was undergoing a name change. “It’s just the way of the world these days,” Zoeller said.


What is going on in the world that forces towns such as Corvallis to change the names of their runways? Is this a Homeland Security/TSA thing? Is it meant to foil the black helicopters? Are we going to start naming runways Joe or Fred and dispense with the cold, unfeeling numbering system? Does Albany have this problem?

Flummoxed and poltrooned, I shot an email to Mary Steckel, the city’s director of Public Works, the department that supervises airport operations. Can you help me? I asked.

“Yes, I can,” she wrote back. “The numbers given the runway correspond to the compass (heading). 9/27 is really 90/270 on a compass reading. Over time, apparently, the Earth shifts a tiny bit and now the location of this runway on the compass is 100/280 or 10/28.”

This is mind-boggling. The Earth has moved “a tiny bit” and we have to rename all the runways? Will they just try to paint around the 7 a bit and turn it into the 8? They are hosed on the 9, though. Tough to make it turn into a 10 (see photos).

And should the cost-conscious residents of Corvallis be concerned that a runway restoration project took so long to get going that the Earth moved “a tiny bit” while we were waiting for the financing … or design … or wetlands permits?

Kind of changes your perception of time … and the Earth … and, I guess by definition, everything else.

Contact reporter James Day at or 541-758-9542. Follow at or


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