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Local airport receives grants for purchase of land, weather station

State Commissioner of Transportation John Schroer made a visit to Johnson County’s airport last week to officially award the facility with two separate grants that could go a long way toward helping to improve the safety and efficiency of its operation. Utilizing federal money generated through taxes on flight related services including the sale of jet fuel, Schroer made the presentation to Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter alongside representatives from the airport, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, and Republican state representative candidate Timothy Hill. The first grant, in the amount of $95,000, will go to acquire a new weather station that can be installed on or near the airport hanger and the second will be utilized to purchase land that is currently being leased from an adjacent property owner.
According to longtime airport operator Bob Johnson, the current weather station is also on leased property, located on the far side of the runway. Because the device requires regular service, sometimes on a daily basis, it is a cumbersome routine for airport officials that have to cross two fences and a cow pasture just to reach it. “In 20 years technology has changed,” said Johnson. “The technology wasn’t available when this system was put in. We had to sample winds at 30 feet, which is the reason for the tall tower with the wind anemometer on it. To get the proper slope away from the runway we had to move it over that far, but new technology allows us to sample winds at only 15 feet above ground, allowing us to put it on the hanger itself.”
The new station will also allow for increased technological capabilities as well. Whereas the old system could only deliver information about weather conditions by phone or radio within the plane, the new system utilizes access to the Internet to provide up to the minute information, and could even feature a live camera to allow pilots to actually see what conditions are like from anywhere in the world. Johnson also noted that with the new station in place, the old station will be removed for use at an airport in Cleveland, Tennessee, which is only another reason that state officials have been interested in helping to secure the funding.
The other, bigger grant of nearly $275,000 will be used for the acquisition of land adjoining the current property. Discussing the importance of this grant, Johnson explained that there are two key terms that must first be explained. The Runway Safety Area(RSA) is very close to the runway itself and is the most critical for safety of flight. The Runway Object Free Area (ROFA), sits farther out, and as the name implies, is intended to be a clear area in case of emergencies.
According to Johnson, the current property line is not sufficient to take in the full area required for the ROFA, and as a result, there is a property line fence that actually crosses through this zone. As defined by the Federal Aviation Administration, the fence actually constitutes an obstruction, but with the purchase of the new land, the airport will be able to push the fence farther out, eliminating the problem.
“We have trouble with the runway safety area because of the proximity of Roan Creek, said Johnson. “We can’t fence up the middle of the creek so we have a fence on the other side. With the safety fence, we essentially we have two fences on that side of the creek and then one on this side around the pasture. After getting the grant for this land acquisition we’ll be able to move the property line over and take those fences out. Both of these grants are for safety enhancement issues, as well as safety of flight and technology advancements.”
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.