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Airport to add upgraded weather station

Once installed, it will improve pilots’ access to current weather information
Thanks to some grant funding, the Prineville Airport hopes to add an upgraded weather station that will bring more air traffic to the local facility.
   The Oregon Department of Transportation recently approved a Connect Oregon IV grant of $110,000 that will help pay for a new Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS).
   “What that does is it gives real-time weather readings on the field,” said Airport Manager Kelly Coffelt. “The most important reason for this system is that under instrument conditions (limited visibility) for commercial air traffic, this system has to be in place for them to land here.”
   AWOS provides information to pilots on winds, cloud ceiling heights, visibility, precipitation, and more.
   “It’s complete information,” Coffelt said.
   In addition, it will enable a pilot to receive that information within 30 miles of the airport, as opposed to calling ahead before the flight or placing a call on the radio just before landing.
   Without the system, flying to the Prineville Airport sometimes requires an extra step for pilots that might deter them from landing there.
   “What happens typically for those types of flights (in instrument conditions) is they would file their flight plan for Redmond and they would come to Redmond and as long as they could get underneath the cloud layer . . . they would cancel the flight plan and divert to Prineville,” Coffelt explained. “That makes it kind of a hassle, something that they might not do in a lot of cases.”
   With AWOS, the Airport could attract more traffic and increase business not only there, but throughout the community.
   “It makes Prineville more accessible — that’s the main thing,” Coffelt said. “If we can make Prineville more accessible from an airport level, obviously we are going to sell more fuel, we’re going to have more people operating out of this field, which means activity. People build hangars, they will base here, which means more maintenance, more people living here. It all spreads.”
   Prineville Airport will probably have to wait about a year before utilizing the AWOS system, as it will take time to install.
   “It’s a pretty complex piece of equipment,” Coffelt remarked.
   Once funds are provided in August, they will need to have engineering done during the fall. Coffelt hopes to then start construction in perhaps the early spring with a completion date of next summer.