• 63°

Craig Field unveils new weather radar system

Craig Field fixed base operator Richard Cook explains the parts of the airport’s new automated weather system Thursday. The system provides pilots with current weather data that was previously unavailable. (Josh Bergeron | Times-Journal)

Craig Field fixed base operations manager Richard Cook explains the parts of the airport’s new automated weather system Thursday. The system provides pilots with current weather data that was previously unavailable. (Josh Bergeron | Times-Journal)

It’s called the ATM of weather and a Star Wars radar system, but to pilots, it’s another reason to fly into Dallas County.

The Craig Field Airport Authority installed an automated weather observation system, abbreviated AWOS, in December at a cost of approximately $180,000. The system provides basic weather data for pilots, such as wind speed, visibility, sky condition and precipitation.

Craig Field director Menzo Driskell, who nicknamed the system Star Wars radar, said he hopes it will lead to increased traffic and improve the overall quality of a flight to the airport.

“Our airport is on a scale with most of the commercial airports in the state; we can land almost anything that flies,” Driskell said. “It was something that we needed, especially because I see our airport as the new front door to Selma.”

The AWOS system sits adjacent to Craig Field’s 8,000-foot runway and can be accessed remotely, in a number of different ways. The most important way is by pilots, preparing to touch down just outside of Selma’s city limits, according to fixed base operations manager Richard Cook.

“Previously, you would have to use Montgomery weather, that was the nearest reporting station, which is a big difference,” Cook said. “You’d have to call into Selma and ask how the weather was. The system provides everything a pilot might need to figure out what the weather in Selma is like.”

A pre-flight weather report could also gauge conditions in Selma previously, but Craig Field property manager Stewart Corley said the AWOS system is much more precise.

“It provides up-to-the-minute details about the weather,” Corley said. “You might be able to get the weather before you take off, but it could change by the time you get ready to land.”

The data picked up by the AWOS system is a part of a national weather directory used by the National Weather Service. Cook said information used by weather news organizations is the same data emitted by the AWOS system.

Though the system has only been installed for one month, Cook said the airport has seen a small uptick in traffic, with some pilots citing the system as a primary reason. An increase in traffic means increased fuel sales and more people spending their money in Dallas County, he said.

The new weather system is also part of a larger plan to continuously improve the airport’s facilities, according to Driskell.

He said the next improvement project will be replacing the runway’s lighting system in 2014.

To access the AWOS system’s data, visit anyawos.com/ksemr or dial 872-9090.