National Academies Press: OpenBook

Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports (2019)

Chapter: Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
×
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3 - Survey and Interview Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25670.
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23 The online survey that was prepared for this report consisted of 24 questions. The first four questions collected contact information, while the fifth requested the type of weather system at the airport. Twenty-seven surveys were completed. Of these, 21 of the weather systems were AWOS III or higher. The remaining questions were in a multiple-choice format, with the results compiled in the following. Q6: Approximately how old is the weather observation system currently in use at your airport? C H A P T E R 3 Survey and Interview Summary Question 6 groups the respondents’ systems by age, allowing the responses to be analyzed for trends based on age. This is helpful in analyzing operational costs as systems age, and it also provides some insight as to how the federal funding program has changed over time. Q7: Who owns your weather system? Filtering systems by age, there is a definite current trend toward systems being owned by the airport. As discussed in the report, AWOS systems are eligible for AIP funding under the Non- Federal Program for NAVAIDs and AWOS.

24 Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports Breaking these responses down based on the age of the system further supports the trend toward more local participation in the funding of weather systems. Systems greater than 15 years old Systems less than 5 years old The Airport The State The FAA or NWS The Airport The State The FAA or NWS 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% Q8: Approximately what were the original total acquisition and installation costs for your weather observation system? Fifty percent of the “Unknown” answers came from airports that had systems 15 years old or older, although one of the “Unknown” responses indicated that the system was owned by the FAA or NWS but was less than 5 years old. Q9: Who paid for the acquisition and installation of your system? (Select all that apply)

Survey and Interview Summary 25 Systems greater than 15 years old Systems less than 5 years old 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% FAA State Department o... Local (airport) funds FAA State Department o... Local (airport) funds Q10: Which best describes the type of system located at your airport? Of the two systems that are noncertified, one is an AWOS AV, but the other is an AWOS III and is reporting to the WMSCR, so this question was probably answered incorrectly by that respondent. Q11: Does your current weather system meet the needs of your customers (pilots that use your airport)? The one “No” response came from an airport with an AWOS A/V, but three of the five respondents who thought they could benefit from system improvements already have AWOS III or an ASOS.

26 Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports Q12: How can pilots access your airport’s weather information? (Select all that apply) If an airport has an AWOS III or better and it is properly maintained and inspected, its data should be accessible on the FAA website. As shown in Appendix B, for the 27 subject airports, 20 are reporting on the FAA website, while the survey results indicate that only 10 airports are available on the FAA website. These apparent discrepancies are discussed in Chapter 6, Conclu- sions and Future Research. Q13: What are the most frequent criticisms that you hear concerning your current weather system? (Please select your top three) Both responses of “The system’s capabilities are limited” came from AWOS A/V type systems, with one of those also responding that they had issues with false reporting. When compar- ing by age grouping of the systems, there were no significant trends. The comments also did not indicate any trends, but one airport with an AWOS II commented that they would like to add thunderstorm detection to their system, while another stated that since their AWOS radio transmission includes a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), pilots comment that it takes too long to repeat in case they missed part of the initial transmission. Similarly, one airport reported that its voice line can be difficult to access due to call volume and the time that it takes the system to “reset” between calls. One airport indicated that its AWOS III reports “freezing rain information not available” even though the system does not have any freezing rain capabilities.

Survey and Interview Summary 27 Q14: What are the estimated annual operating (including maintenance) and inspection costs for your weather system? Answers to Question 14 did not reveal any trends based on system age. All four of the “Unsure” answers came from airports with systems owned by the FAA or NWS. Q15: What percentage of your system’s annual maintenance and inspection fees are paid by your airport budget? The answers to Question 15 indicate a clear shift in burden toward the airports. These results are consistent with the FAA’s shift to the Non-Fed system, in which maintenance responsibili- ties are the responsibility of the system owner, and also reflect cost sharing (state or private) that might be available to the system owners. 100% - we do not have any... Greater than 75% 50% - 75% 25% - 50% �ess than 25% 100% - we do not have any... Greater than 75% 50% - 75% 25% - 50% �ess than 25% Systems greater than 15 years old Systems less than 5 years old 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90%

28 Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports Q16: How much of a burden are maintenance and inspection costs of your current system relative to your overall airport budget? One of the purposes of this question was to determine the ongoing investment for a weather system. There are significant annual costs associated with a weather system, enough so that 40.74% of the airports polled consider the costs to be a significant part of their overall airport budget. Some small GA airports might be able to get initial funding for installation but find it difficult to afford the required annual maintenance. Similar to Question 15, the answers to Question 16 reinforce the notion of a trend toward decreasing federal funding for these systems. Although the FAA has never funded maintenance on AWOS systems it does not own, because all new systems being installed are sponsor-owned and -operated the airports now bear the burden of cost, as compared with FAA- or NWS-owned systems that were maintained and inspected using federal dollars. NA - all installation... The cost for maintenance ... It represents a significan... Annual costs to operate t... NA - all installation... The cost for maintenance ... It represents a significan... Annual costs to operate t... Systems greater than 15 years old Systems less than 5 years old 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% Q17: Who provides maintenance to your system if it is FAA certified (check all that apply)? There are few differences in who provides the maintenance based on age of the system. They must all be maintained to the same standards.

Survey and Interview Summary 29 Q18: What types of funding are available for the ongoing maintenance, operational, or certification costs for your weather system? (Select all that apply) Again, there is a shift away from federal funding and toward local (airport) funding. Airport employee State employee Contract employee Federal funding State funding Local funding Systems greater than 15 years old Systems less than 5 years old 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 70%50% 60% 100%80% 90% Q19: Has your weather system ever been affected by lightning? The tower is a major component of most weather systems and is, by design, the tallest object within a 500-foot radius. As such, it is a likely target for a lightning strike. Some level of damage caused by lightning was reported by 25.92% of respondents, with three reporting damage exceeding $10,000.

30 Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports Q20: Do you have any challenges because of siting requirements for your weather system? Which answer best describes your current situation? Case Example 1 in Chapter Five discusses how an ASOS at the Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport was relocated due to development and what the financial impact was on the airport. One respondent commented that the AWOS is located in an area of the airport that will be the last to be developed, so siting should not be a problem for the next 10 to 20 years. Q21: In addition to safety, do any of the benefits listed below apply as a result of installing your weather system? (Select all that apply) Responses to Question 21 speak to economic impact and the perceived benefits to the airport of an on-site weather system. In addition to the perceived increased level of safety, the presence of the certified weather system may contribute to attracting more based aircraft, more business aircraft, and higher-performance aircraft to an airport. In addition, the weather system can pro- vide a connection to the nonflying community, since weather affects everyone and local news media often report weather data from the local airport if it is publicly accessible. Q22: Are there improvements (additional sensors, etc.) that you would like to make to your system but have been unable to justify to funding agencies?

Survey and Interview Summary 31 Four of six airports with AWOS II capabilities or less responded that their customers desire more capable systems. A “Yes” response did not require a comment, but one commented that the airport would like to have thunderstorm and lighting detection. Another commented that customers frequently advise that information provided by the airport’s system was often prone to errors. Q23: One of the purposes of this synthesis study is to help airport managers make purchasing decisions. To that end, it would be helpful to collect information concerning the reliability of your system components. We have tried to organize this collection so that it is quick and easy to fill out. There may be more than one type for a particular sensor. Please just mark any that you do not have as “NA.” Please make the appropriate selections in the matrix below. Note: Some percentages may not add to 100.00 because of rounding.

32 Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports Question 23 sought to obtain information that could help the reader understand the types of maintenance that can be expected. • Data Processors: 48.15% required occasional repair across all age groupings, with 66.67% for systems 5 years old or newer, a finding that confirms that the newer processors are less reliable than the old ones. • Telephone Link: 40.74% required occasional repairs. That percentage was consistent across age groupings. • Ceilometer: All four of the airports that reported replacements were in the 0- to 5-year age grouping. That is a 33.33% replacement rate for that group. • Visibility Sensors: 40.74% of all respondents reported requiring repairs. That repair rate is consistent across age groupings. • Anemometer: All three replacements came from the same 0- to 5-year age grouping, with 25.93% of all airports reporting issues that required repair. Q24: We will be profiling the experiences of six to eight different airports in this study. Would you be willing to be interviewed for such a profile? Several of the “Yes” responses have had their interviews summarized in the Case Examples section of this report.

Next: Chapter 4 - Existing Technologies »
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The needs of airports may vary depending on the types of operations typically conducted at the airport, as well as the type of weather common to the airport.

The TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program's ACRP Syntheis 105: Airport Surface Weather Observation Options for General Aviation Airports aims to provide the operators of general aviation (GA) airports a comprehensive source of information about airport-based weather observation options so they may make informed decisions to support the specific operational needs of their airport.

Weather observations at airports can come from either FAA-approved (certified) or advisory (non-certified) sources. Weather reporting at a GA airport, whether certified or not, typically comes from automated sources, as human observers are increasingly being phased out or are stationed mainly at commercial service airports.

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