Taking away the AWOS, ILS, and VASI lights at Galena Airport would essentially turn the airport into a VFR-only facility, degrade pilot safety, and negatively impact several villages in the area, AOPA wrote to the FAA. [ Download the letter.]
The FAA is proposing to decommission those systems once the Air Force discontinues operations at the airport as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act.
"Galena's airport is a miniature passenger and freight distribution hub for the villages of Nulato, Kaltag, Koyukuk, Huslia, Ruby, and Hughes," wrote Randy Kenagy, AOPA senior director of strategic planning. "Clearly the loss of precision approaches at [Galena] is a negative impact at a regional level."
Decommissioning the AWOS would also have a regional impact because there are few weather reporting stations in the area. VFR and IFR pilots use AWOS reports to validate weather forecasts.
"Loss of even a single weather reporting station is critical," Kenagy said. "Even VFR operators count on the Galena weather for operational decision making."
AOPA pointed out that the FAA is proposing to take away the very resources it has encouraged pilots to use - ILS and VASI glideslope indicators. Using these systems helps to reduce the risk of controlled flight into terrain.
The association urged the FAA to keep the systems available for pilots until they identify alternate solutions.
"AOPA supports changes in the levels of service in Alaska," Kenagy said, "but our support is focused on improving and adding services, not removing them."
May 3, 2007