Pilot communications system installed at Arnold Palmer Regional
While passenger numbers steadily climb at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, officials are installing a system to improve communications safety while the air-traffic control tower's fate is still in limbo.
In a monthly report of passenger numbers released Tuesday by the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, 67,026 people have flown from the Unity airport on commercial carrier Spirit Airlines in the first four months of 2013. This is 50,000 more than the number of passengers who flew in the first four months of 2012 — which totaled 17,161 — and more than the entire number of passengers in 2011, which totaled 64,013.
Spirit has served more than 277,695 passengers at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport since service began to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in February 2011. It added service to Myrtle Beach in May 2011; expanded to Orlando in May 2012; and will add three weekly non-stop flights to Dallas-Fort Worth beginning June 13.
Seasonal service to Myrtle Beach, S.C., began in February, three months earlier than planned.
Meanwhile, the GroundLink system, purchased from a Minneapolis-based company, will enable pilots to communicate directly with airports in Johnstown and Cleveland from the aircraft when the Unity control tower is closed overnight, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Previously, a pilot had to call the airports using a public telephone to receive permission and a time for takeoff, authority board chairman Don Rossi said.
“This gives the pilot a direct line to Johnstown and Cleveland, and he does it when he's ready,” he said.
The $10,000 system will be paid for with part of an equipment grant. The $8,950 unit cost $1,200 to install.
The system would become more significant if the control tower would close in the wake of federal funding cuts because of budget sequestration. The tower was among 149 on the closure list at regional airports throughout the country released in late March,
On Friday, the federal Department of Transportation announced that all towers will remain open at least through Sept. 30, the end of the federal budget year.
“That's great news for everybody — especially us,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the authority. “We'll see what's going to happen in September.”
Rossi said the authority has been working on obtaining and installing the system for three months and did its first communication tests on Monday.
Using a phone line, a pilot will call one of the neighboring airports and receive a window in a number of minutes for takeoff. Rossi explained that within that window, the pilot would have to prepare the plane, do all required safety checks and take off.
He said the system will save fuel because pilots will no longer have to wait for the time window.
Rossi said he is glad to have the additional GroundLink system in place but hopes the tower acts as a main line of communication.
“It's a sad and a hard thing to talk about with no towers, but we're ahead of the ball,” he said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Crosby banned from Jets game because he missed All-Star Game
- LeBeau won’t join Cardinals coaching staff
- Former Steelers LB Haggans to do time in Westmoreland jail
- Some normalcy returns to Homestead business district devastated by fire
- Liberty public servant Owens remembered as problem solver
- Snow causes collisions, delays in Mon-Yough area
- Pittsburgh cracks down on overcrowded houses
- Pine-Richland’s DiNucci to Pitt; Kittanning’s Bowers opts for PSU
- Munhall council president charged in crash that injured woman
- Teen found in Riverview Park last year died of overdose
- Gorman: Not just a no-brainer for Pine-Richland’s DiNucci