Parish airport to get weather station

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

VIDALIA — Aviators navigating the Miss-Lou skies will be a little safer thanks to a $200,000 grant for an automatic weather observation station.

The automated sensors in the station are designed to serve aviation and meteorological observing needs for safe aircraft operations and weather forecasting.

The Concordia Parish Airport Authority received a verbal commitment last week from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Aviation Division for the $180,000 system.

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Airport manager Carl Sayers announced the commitment to the police jury last week and said the system will be a tremendous asset for the safety of pilots that visit the airport.

“It helps the airport to add an extra layer of safety as far as pilots making approaches and departing from Concordia,” Sayers said. “With this, they can see what the weather is from the air, from their phone or from the Internet.”

Of the six different categories of weather observation stations, Concordia’s will be an AWOS III P-T, which Sayers says detects precipitation and thunderstorms within a 30-mile radius.

The stations are operated and controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration, state and local governments.

While the grant will pay for the system, maintenance fees, estimated at $5,000 a year, are not included in the grant funding.

Sayers said the maintenance fees will be a three-way split between the airport authority, police jury and the City of Vidalia.

Currently, pilots landing in Concordia relied on a weather observation station at Hardy-Anders Field Natchez-Adams County Airport.

While that station isn’t too far from the Concordia Airport, Sayers said weather patterns can differ greatly between the two areas.

“With the proximity and elevation difference in the two airports, a lot of the time we may have fog over the airport that Natchez might not have,” Sayers said. “So it gives a comprising weather situation to approach into Concordia by using Natchez area weather conditions.

“It just adds a level of safety.”

The weather station will also help in Concordia’s long-term plan to convert the airport from operating under visual flight rules, which is currently does, to operating under instrument flight rules.

Visual flight rules limit the ability for a pilot to land at the airport during times of inclement weather because the pilots are limited to their visual reference of the conditions.

With instrument flight rules, pilots can reference to instruments in the flight deck, and the electronic signals from weather stations helps the navigation.

Sayers said the weather station will allow more pilots to land and depart during times of inclement weather.

The station will also allow weather junkies to get more exact forecasts and conditions for Concordia Parish.

“The public will also be able to call in or check exact weather conditions on the Internet,” Sayers said.