Jefferson County Airpark closer to getting equipment for safer landings

WINTERSVILLE — Bids were opened Tuesday afternoon for an automated weather observation system designed to make it safer for pilots landing at the Jefferson County Airpark in inclement weather.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful thing for the airport,” Manager Brian Thaxton said, explaining the AWOS will alert pilots to “current conditions, temperatures, the ceiling. Pretty much everything they’re going to need to land here.”

“It’s a huge advantage for pilots who before would have had to fly to another airport. Now they have an actual gauge of what they’re flying into,” Thaxton said. “Without it, they’re totally in the dark.”

Submitting bids for the station were J. Ranck Electric Inc. of Mount Pleasant, Mich., with a total bid of $353,761, and Jeff Howard Electric Co. of Blacklick, Ohio, with a total bid of $217,725.

Bid information was given to the airport authority’s engineering consultant, Kevin Sigg of Michael Baker Engineering, who said they would analyze the bid documents and bring a recommendation to the board’s June 8 meeting.

Secretary-treasurer Gary Folden said the AWOS is a game-changer.

“It really allows aircraft to land in inclement weather — it gives readings, rainfall, anything you’d need to know to come in (for a landing), and it will allow them to make lower approaches. It’s going to be a real plus for the airport.”

Folden said they’d originally planned to go for the highest grade AWOS system, but the Federal Aviation Administration nixed the idea.

“They said they didn’t see the need for (the highest grade), there wasn’t much difference,” Folden said. “But, with the pandemic stuff, Congress ruled FAA should pay for the entire project, with no local or state matches.

“It will really help us, not having to match it,” Folden said.

Thaxton said they currently are seeing 15 to 30 operations a day, “but there can be more. There were times we were a lot busier, but we’re still here and moving forward.”

“A lot of pilots have commented to me or called in and said they were going to come but no idea what the weather was,” he added. “I actually think its going to be another piece of the puzzle.”


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