Aiport improvements create safer facility

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2000

An Automated Surface Observing System was constructed at the Greenville Municipal Airport this year. The system allows pilots arriving in Greenville access to current weather conditions in the city. The system was placed at the airport by the Air Force at no charge to the city.

Photo by Robert Blankenship

The Greenville Municipal Airport has undergone several improvements over the past year that should make it a safer and more efficient facility for which pilots can land.

The airport, which was originally built in Greenville in the early sixties, has become more and more important to the economic growth of the area with the increase of corporate visitors and other tourist from out of town.

One of the latest improvements at the airport involves an Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), which is a system that automatically releases weather information to those at the airport as well as those flying above.

Travis Capps, airport manager, said the system provides a lot of different information that could be very important when it comes to aviation.

"The ASOS is primarily used to give pilots or those arriving at the Greenville Airport the current weather conditions at that particular moment at the airport. It is a very sophisticated system and we are very fortunate to have access to it," Capps said.

The system calculates many different types of weather variables including: sky conditions, visibility, present weather type (rain, sleet, snow), pressure readings (including density altitude, altimeter and pressure altimeter), temperature, relative humidity, dew point, wind (speed, direction, gust character), precipitation amount and freezing rain. All of the

information obtained through the ASOS can be used to assure a safer landing or flight over the skies of Greenville.

Perhaps the best aspect of having this sophisticated system is that it was placed here with no charge to the city or the airport. The United States Air Force placed the ASOS here to help them know what the weather was like in Greenville for flights they were scheduling in Greenville skies from Fort Rucker.

"The great thing about this is that the city of Greenville did not have to pay for it and we do not have to take care of the maintenance. The only thing we were required to do was supply them with the land to build the system. If we were to purchase a system like this it would probably cost the city between $250,000 and $300,000," Capps said.

The system feeds the information it obtains from weather reading instruments into a computer system that is readily available to those at the airport, at the Air Force base and to pilots and earthbound citizens with scanners. The complete up-to-the-minute reports can be heard on an ordinary scanner at the frequency of 120. If a scanner is not available than the message can also be heard by phone.

"We get a lot of benefits from this system, people can call 383-9676 and it allows them to get the current weather status. Many of our farmers use the information, especially chicken farmers who need to know the temperature and humidity," he said.

The system also allows for those at the airport to handle many duties that would otherwise have to wait due to sitting by the radio waiting for pilots to call in.

"Another benefit is that it frees us up here at the airport to do other jobs such as gassing up planes or whatever. Before someone would always have to be by the radio. Now, the pilot can tune in on that frequency and receive all the conditions that would need for Greenville. The system operates 24 hours a day so when we close there does not have to be anyone here waiting for a plane to come in," Capps said.

Another modernization made at the airport is the implementing of a Global Positioning System (GPS). This helps airplane pilots to land their plane during times when runways my not be visible.

"The GPS Approach allows pilots to land here during increment weather even if their is a low ceiling and low visibility," he said. "The system lines up the landing aircraft with the runway and shows them where they are landing within 49 feet, which is very close."

Capps said that the system is another great asset for the airport and that it is a great bargain.

"This was done at no cost to the city. The FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) set the system up for us and because their are no moving parts and no electronics there is nothing to break or maintain," he said.

Capps and other employees also took time this year to replace the older fuel system that was located at the airport.

"This summer we upgraded from an underground storage system to an above ground system," he said. "Above ground systems are better because they are easier to work on and because we can rid ourselves of many expensive monitoring systems that are required on underground system to meet environmental regulations."

The building that is the airport office recently has undergone improvements as well. New siding, carpeting and furniture has made the facility more attractive to visitors who come in at the airport.

Capps said that business at the airport can fluctuate greatly from week to week. Fuel sales at the airport shows that the overall traffic has increased, but he said that it is not known at this time by how many flights.

"Many of the people that come in are on corporate aircraft or contracting companies. We also have about eight to ten local pilots who use the airport on a regular basis. We get many kit-type planes and we even have some transit aircraft that would rather stop in Greenville than go into Montgomery," Capps said.

Capps said that he hoped the airport would continue to grow into the future.

"We would like to have more hangar space and longer runways to accommodate corporate jets. There are a lot of things on our wishlist and unfortunately all of it requires money. But, those are our top concerns at this time," he said.

The growth of the airport could prove beneficial to the community in that most large companies are now looking to place plants were they are easily accessible.

"More and more companies are looking to place their plants and businesses in industrial parks that are near airports. An attractive, up-to-date airport could be a key to selling our community to these industries. We want to do all we can to cater to these people and help Greenville bring in more businesses," Capps said.