Montana Airport Wants To Be Alternative To SEA, ANC For Asia
The Federal Aviation Administration has certified for use the
first and only Category III instrument landing system in Montana at
Great Falls International Airport (GTF).
The new system, certified last week, electronically guides
CAT-III-equipped aircraft in for low-visibility landings on runway
3. "This is significant for the Airport Authority because it gives
us a whole new market of companies to pursue, the international
freight market," said Airport Director Cynthia Schultz to the Great
"Great Falls is well located as the first inland airport with
all-weather instrument landing for companies flying freight over
the North Pole from Asia," Schultz said. "Companies such as Fed Ex
and UPS like a spot to make "technical stops," in which they can
split their freight to ship in different directions."
"Commercial pilots will be able to land here now even when there
is very low visibility and a low weather ceiling," added Jim Hantz,
FAA air traffic control manager in Great Falls. "Since the Great
Falls airport is one of the few airports in the western United
States with this enhanced navigation system, it will inevitably
make it a more attractive spot for commercial pilots with ILS
equipment to land during extremely low visibility or mechanical
"The airport already is a tremendous asset for the entire
region, and the ultra modern instrument landing system gives us
another economic development tool to attract companies," said Great
Falls Development Authority President Brett Doney.
Work completed on a $42 million runway upgrade last October,
after six months of work, Schultz said. The project corrected a
severe line-of-sight condition, caused by a dip in the runway. The
airport also installed Category III equipment for $8 million.
The FAA had separate contracts to provide and check precise
equipment, and a series of tests to verify instrument accuracy,
according to Schultz.
"Commercial planes flying in low visibility are dependent on
these instruments so they have to be precise," Schultz added.
The CAT III ILS relies on two separate systems, Hantz said. A
sophisticated set of navigation instruments placed in the ground
will help pilots of instrument-equipped planes guide their course
and glide slope.
FAA air traffic controllers are the "critical human element,"
Schultz said, because they activate the systems during low
visibility and help guide pilots.
Hantz said 20 local FAA controllers got extra training on how to
monitor weather and set Cat III lighting and navigation systems to
appropriate levels dictated by weather conditions.
The airport is a key FedEx hub and has undeveloped land with
utilities, and can now be accessed in minimal weather 365-days a
year, Doney said.
"And Great Falls is well located to compete with business and
suppliers from Asia that want to avoid congestion, higher costs in
busier places like Seattle and Anchorage," Doney said.