Port of Port Townsend sets sights on weather observing system for airport

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Advocates of installing a new atmospheric detection system at Jefferson County International Airport believe the installation could put Port Townsend on the map — specifically, the weather map.

“When KOMO News puts up a weather map, we’ll be part of it,” said Port of Port Townsend Deputy Director Jim Pivarnik about the proposed Automatic Weather Observing System, also referred to as AWOS.

“And anyone who wants detailed information about local temperature, wind speed or cloud cover will be able to see it on their smartphone,” he added.

Port of Port Townsend commissioners Wednesday authorized staff to apply for a Federal Aviation Administration grant that would subsidize 90 percent of the projected $337,000 cost of installing such a system at the airport 6 miles south of Port Townsend.

An additional grant from the state Department of Transportation could bring the port’s share down to about $17,000, Pivarnik said.

While anyone would be able to access the data, AWOS’s purpose is to transmit detailed weather conditions to pilots determining whether to land at specific airports or route their flight to one nearby.

Pivarnik, Port Director Larry Crockett and engineer Bill Putney met Thursday afternoon to begin drafting the FAA grant application.

“The FAA has money to give away, but it needs to be built by October,” Pivarnik said.

“We are trying to fast-track this.”

Upon receiving federal grant approval, the port would call for bids on the project, which would include building a foundation and wiring the site for electricity and fiber-optic connections.

Upon completion, the system would “pop right in,” Pivarnik said.

Pivarnik said some local pilots oppose the installation because they feel it isn’t needed, but he has convinced them by saying it’s not for them.

“I told them they already know what the weather’s like. This is to expand service for people who are coming from the outside,” he said.

While the construction could be finished by October, it is likely it wouldn’t be operational until April 2015 because of the time it takes to secure a Federal Communications Commission license, Pivarnik said.

“One of the advantages of the AWOS system is that an emergency flight from Harborview [Medical Center in Seattle] will be able to know at takeoff whether they should land at the airport or on the helipad at the hospital,” Putney said.

“This data is combined with the location of the patient, as the airport is a more convenient place to meet for patients from Port Hadlock or Port Ludlow.”

Putney said the presence of local weather data on news channels and weather websites would act as an advertisement for the area.

“When we are on the TV weather maps, it will be like having a banner ad for Port Townsend every night,” Putney said.

“People will come here for the weekend because they’ll see that the weather here isn’t as miserable as everywhere else.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 10. 2014 7:02PM
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