NAV Canada is closing down the human-operated weather station at the Sandspit airport and replacing it with a 24-hour automated weather system.
The change takes effect Jan. 20, said NAV Canada spokesperson Louis Garneau.
At the same time, NAV Canada will be installing a human-operated weather office at the Masset airport for 12 hours a day, although no date has been set for its start-up, Mr. Garneau said.
The change is part of a nation-wide review of NAV Canada services. The Sandspit weather station is one of 23 across Canada which are being closed and replaced with automated systems.
“We look at the requirements overall in the region and try to balance out human observations with computer observations,” Mr. Garneau said. “The objective is to have good weather coverage in the region.”
The Sandspit airport may get more traffic than the Masset airport, but that had nothing to do with the decision, he said.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the traffic, it has to do with the weather,” he said.
A NAV Canada briefing paper on the situation notes that with regards to Sandspit, “some distrust AWOS (the automated weather observation system) while others find it acceptableÂ… The climate study indicates that the AWOS is a good fit for this location.”
Masset, on the other hand, is a “data-sparse area with difficult flying conditions” and customers are eager to see the change to human weather observers, the briefing paper says.
Regional director Duane Gould said he had not heard that NAV Canada was switching to an automated system at the Sandspit airport.
“As far as I know, it’s not a hot button issue yet,” he said. “My question is, how accurate is it?”
Mr. Gould said he has heard complaints from Smithers representatives about NAV Canada’s plan for that town’s airport, which involve reducing hours at the Flight Service Station and installing an automated system. He said the Smithers reps were worried that flights could be cancelled if the automated system konks out.
Mr. Garneau said the service change on the islands does not require Transport Canada approval, although NAV Canada did present the plan to Transport Canada and “they did not have any problem.”
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