The Fulton County Airport will be able to gather real-time data useful for pilots and weather forecasters once it installs an advanced weather monitoring system, as scheduled this fall.
The county is expecting to open bids today on an AWOS III, according to Senior Planner Sean Geraghty.
The Automated Weather Observation System, designed last year, will be eligible for federal funding through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program, according to FAA spokesman Jim Peters.
The pricetag last year was estimated at roughly $230,000. The FAA foots 90 percent of the cost of such upgrades, New York state picks up 5 percent and the county would have to pay approximately $11,500.
AWOS systems have become standard equipment at community airports, according to Fulton County Airport Manager Bill Milton.
“It’s a very significant upgrade for the airport,” he said.
Currently, the tiny, county-owned airport handles about 15 takeoffs and 15 landings daily — a number that could increase with the establishment of a real-time weather system pilots could count on when planning an itinerary. The AWOS III system to be installed provides a veritable treasure chest of weather data pilots can use to decide if they can, or should, land at a particular airport.
According to the FAA, the AWOS III will gauge wind speed, wind gusts, wind direction, variable wind direction, temperature, dew point, altimeter setting, density altitude, visibility, variable visibility, sky condition and cloud height and type.
The weather equipment at the airport currently consists of a sock used to determine the direction of the wind.
“Having automated weather reporting at a little county airport is the standard now. It brings it up to the current, standard level that people expect across the country,” Milton said.
The National Weather Service currently makes use of data from AWOS systems at Albany International Airport and Schenectady County Airport, according to warning coordination meteorologist Steve DiRienzo.
“We’ll certainly use the information; any time we can get data from anywhere. It’s important,” he said. “There’s very few people and there’s very few instruments, so we don’t have a lot of data. Real-time data is lacking in a good part of our area,”
The next-closest AWOS system west of Schenectady is in Rome, Oneida County.
DiRienzo said with an AWOS in Johnstown, the National Weather Service would be able to know more precisely when a cold front has passed through the area, verify storm warnings and measure wind gusts, among other things.
“It’ll give us a little more of a heads-up,” he said.