formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

June 23, 2009 AWOS

The Liberty Gazette
June 23, 2009

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Linda:
The National Weather Service’s Gene Hafele presented informative weather facts during the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon in May. Afterward he asked me, “You know what we really need out here?” I knew exactly what was coming; something we started suggesting a couple of years ago: AWOS. Aviation Weather Observation System. They are placed at airports, and there is a serious hole in the coverage on this side of town. In fact, says Gene, the Houston T.V. stations are calling him and asking why they can’t get weather for this area. AWOS systems provide pilots with vital current weather information that help them make critical safety-of-flight decisions that would otherwise be guesswork.

The current version, AWOS-IV, provides information on present weather conditions including current local altimeter setting, temperature, dew point, wind speed and direction, visibility, cloud height and sky condition and optionally has the ability to detect thunderstorms, runway surface conditions and freezing rain. The freezing rain sensor measures intensity and duration of freezing rain occurrences, providing real-time reporting of freezing precipitation–something no airplane, no matter how big or powerful, is certified to fly in. AWOS information is disseminated via telephone line, Internet, and over the station’s radio frequency. Pilots tune in the AWOS and find out the current conditions before starting an instrument approach.

Mike: Currently, to execute an instrument approach into Liberty, a pilot must use the altimeter setting measured at Bush Intercontinental, over 39 miles away. Texas Southeast Regional Airport in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area is the closest airport to the east that has weather reporting at 41 miles. Conroe’s Lone Star Executive, Jasper County and Angelina County airports also have this important piece of equipment.

With local altimeter setting provided by an AWOS, the minimum altitude to which an airplane may be flown could be lowered providing a better chance of sighting the airport and making a safe landing. Commercial operators require local weather before they are allowed to execute these instrument approaches. An AWOS at Liberty would put our town on weather maps used in TV weather reports and make our airport more efficient and effective for business travelers, and safer for all.

Linda: Only thing about AWOS is, we’ll have to watch out for hawks. Denny, a friend in Colorado, says, “Our airport (KEIK) in Erie, Colorado has had intermittent problems with the AWOS broadcasting ‘Wind-Missing’ in the weather data this spring. After much investigation last week, including calling the AWOS computer experts out to do their troubleshooting research, it was determined that the intermittent outage was caused by a hawk who perches on the top of the mast out in the field while scanning for lunch. When the hawk flies away, the wind report works again... until the hawk gets hungry. This is part of what makes EIK such a fun place to fly. We regularly see rabbits, hawks, prairie dogs, an occasional eagle, coyotes, raccoons, even a deer from time to time. But this hi-tech glitch with the hawk is unique. And it only took 'em a week to figure it out. The solution is pretty hi-tech too. We now have on order, a very specialized appurtenance to prevent the bird from landing on the mast. It's called a stick. Really, they actually ordered one!”

Mike: Here’s to blue skies, AWOS’s, happy hawks, and the Air Race Classic, which begins today, weather permitting.

Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com

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