Weather cameras installed at Steamboat airport and across Colorado
In a partnership between the Colorado Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Alaska Weather Camera Program, the Steamboat Springs Airport recently installed four cameras near the runway that provide updated snapshots of weather conditions.
The cost to install the cameras was covered by CDOT as part of an effort to expand real-time visibility throughout Colorado.
The feeds are available through the Federal Aviation Administrations’ website at WeatherCams.FAA.gov, which provides an interactive map of every FAA camera. The FAA’s website also provides weather data and trends, including temperature, dew point, barometric pressure, visibility, wind speed and wind direction.
The cameras are designed to help pilots visually observe weather patterns ahead of time. These cameras aren’t limited to airports, either. Cameras were also installed on passes and peaks to help pilots navigate through potentially treacherous areas. The top of nearby Walton Peak has four cameras as well.
“Pilots visually can look out and say, ‘OK, the top of this peak that I’m seeing has clouds on the cameras, I can’t make it,’” said Chris Leary, the senior maintenance technician for Steamboat’s airport. “It’s a huge help safety-wise to visually see that.”
Leary was in charge of installing the cameras, which he pointed in the four directions where most air traffic comes from.
Alaska was the first state to receive cameras from the FAA, as Alaska’s mountainous topography, extreme weather and abundance of air traffic makes that state a high priority for new aeronautical programs, according to Stacie Fain, the airport manager at Bob Adams Field.
Because Colorado has similar mountainous topography and inclement weather, it is just the second state to participate in the FAA’s project.
The Steamboat Springs Airport was among the last recipients of the cameras. The statewide project happened in three phases, the first of which involved large commercial airports. The second phase focused on regional airports, such as the Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, which received cameras last year.
The third phase expanded the opportunity to small general aviation airports, which were determined based on weather, landscape and number of takeoffs and landings, so Steamboat’s airport was chosen based on a mix of those factors.
“So, all the cameras that you’re seeing on their website right now, I think are all the cameras that they’re putting in,” Leary said.
“That’s it for Colorado,” Fain added.
To further enhance the safety of the skies, later this fall Steamboat’s airport will receive an Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast tower as part the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, which has been updating air traffic control from a radar-based system to a GPS based system.
The FAA will pay the city an ongoing lease in exchange for having the tower installed.
The tower will receive GPS locations and other data from nearby aircraft, then transmit that information to air traffic controllers and any aircraft equipped with the necessary receivers for ADS-B signals.
Using this new method, pilots can see other aircrafts’ location and direction of travel in real-time, lessening the chance of midair collisions.
Since January 2020, all aircraft are required to send ADS-B out signals to legally fly in most airspace, but the ability to receive those signals is optional.
“There was just a midair in Boulder,” Leary said, referencing a collision between two planes on Sept. 17 in Boulder County that killed three passengers.
“That should have been able to be avoided with this kind of equipment,” Fain said.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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