Airport weather system upgraded

The weather data system that malfunctioned last week at the Prince George Airport (YXS) not only been repaired, it's been enhanced.

The Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) is owned and maintained by the federal agency in charge of operating Canada's civil air navigation service - NAV Canada.

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"The AWOS records critical information for the safety of flight including ceiling height, sky condition, altimeter setting, wind direction and speed, temperature and dew point," said Prince George Airport spokesperson Lindsay Cotter.

On Nov. 26, a key part in the AWOS machinery malfunctioned. At the same time, the weather turned poor so the data the AWOS provided would have been needed for the coming and going of aircraft. It forced the closure of the airport for flight activity for about 24 hours, which also meant the repair professionals had to drive to YXS or wait for good weather when pilots and ground crews could safely navigate without instruments.

In addition to all the passenger disruptions and inconvenience to people who use air services in general, the airport itself had some income lost (most flights, though, were made up for later).

YXS boss John Gibson said NAV Canada went above and beyond to fix the problem, and took additional steps knowing the Canada Winter Games were just around the corner, with dozens more flights already scheduled during that period.

"NAV Canada has been very responsive," Gibson said from Ottawa where he is chairing meetings of the Canadian Airports Council. "They will be installing some redundancies so there's a backup system, and during the Canada Winter Games there will be a tech on site to make sure anything that might happen has immediate service. I got that confirmed here in Ottawa this morning."

With thousands of athletes, officials, contingents of family and supporters, entertainers, media, dignitaries, and many more people representing millions of incoming dollars all flowing through YXS in February, the airport is an essential work of the success of the Games.

The mild early winter is no consolation when considering all the variables of weather and technology, said Gibson, so having such direct NAV Canada service is appreciated by his entire YXS team.

"We've had lower than normal winter costs, probably a month's worth of snow removal saved, so that was on the positive side. But you can get hit between the eyes at almost any time, so that quiet November is nothing we can rely on for our bottom line until the winter season is good and finished," Gibson said. "Certainly during the Canada Winter Games we are going to be at full readiness, and I'm thankful NAV Canada has stepped up for us on the AWOS issue."

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