The Alberni Valley Regional Airport has received a $65,000 BC Air Access grant to help pay for replacement of a weather station at the airport. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Alberni Valley Regional Airport to replace aging weather station

$65,000 B.C. Air Access Program grant will help pay for new station

The Alberni Valley Regional Airport has received nearly $65,000 in grant funding to replace its weather station.

The money is coming from a B.C. Air Access Program grant and will help pay for 75 percent of the total cost. The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, which manages the regional airport, had budgeted $100,000 to replace the weather station in its 2019 financial plan.

“The Alberni Valley Regional Airport is in need of a new weather station for a couple key reasons,” said Rob Williams, general manager of environmental services for the ACRD.

“First, the current system is no longer supported by the manufacturer and therefore cannot be certified by Transport Canada. Secondly, this new station will provide real-time weather data that is required for our application to Nav Canada for implementation of our GPS approach, which is a final component of the expansion project,” he said.

The BCAAP grants, $8 million in total, were awarded to 16 regional airports for 21 different improvement projects. The BCAAP program is in its fifth year and serve rural airports—many in remote northern communities that struggle to make needed improvements without support.

Applicants are assessed on many factors, including demonstrated need, safety and travel benefits, environmental improvements, links to long-term vision and community support. This year’s recipients have planned projects that will improve airport safety, support medevac and wildfire suppression services, improve economic benefits for the communities that surround them, and reduce environmental risks and greenhouse gas emissions.

There are more than 300 public airports, heliports and water aerodromes in B.C.

The existing automatic weather observation system at the Alberni airport is operational, but not supported. “It’s to support airport operations. It’s for any pilot in-bound or out-bound to know what the weather is,” Williams said. That includes pilots transiting the area.

There are two webcams set up at the weather station as well, giving pilots a view of the area, but not specific information.

Without a weather station, pilots flying in the area must rely on the next available weather station, which means Comox, Nanaimo or Tofino—all areas where the weather can be quite different than in Port Alberni at any given time.

Installing the new weather station is the final step in the AVRA’s application for a published GPS approach to the airport. work to level an access road at the north end of the runway will be completed by the end of summer.

The GPS application has been submitted “and we hope to hear back for implementation for 2020,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, the ACRD’s airport advisory committee will schedule another meeting to discuss creating a vision for the airport and its future uses.

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A rainbow glows next to the Alberni Valley Regional Airport following an isolated shower on June 7, 2019. The Alberni Valley often has different weather than other aviation weather reporting stations in Comox and Tofino. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

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