Firm hits snag in putting AWOS info on Internet

 - May 12, 2008, 5:03 AM

Efforts by a Newburgh, N.Y. company to put AWOS readouts on the Internet have met with limited success, but a major AWOS manufacturer gives the idea a good review.

Stanwyck Avionics said it began the project two years ago with “high expectations,” and it received permission to do beta testing at several AWOS facilities. “After several years we decided that since everywhere we demo our concept we are highly received,” said company engineer William Stanwyck, “we should contact the FAA in Washington for approval.”

The company was hoping that would make the system eligible for FAA Airport Improvement Program funding, but Stanwyck now believes that was a mistake. “Once we did that, they didn’t know what to do with us and took nearly six months to respond,” he said.

An engineer by training, Stanwyck hoped to develop an add-on for all of the AWOS and ASOS equipment already installed at airports. For a targeted price of $500 for software, an airport could use its own PC to intercept the weather data and display it on the Internet. It would also be able to do “data logging and anything else they wanted to do.”

Stanwyck claimed that the FAA rescinded prior permissions and told Stanwyck Avionics that it would need written approval from the two manufacturers of AWOS and ASOS equipment–U.S.-based Qualimetrics and Artais, now part of Vaisala of Finland–to proceed. After that, Stanwyck could return to the FAA and have it reexamine the system for approval.

“That’s all Artais and Qualimetrics needed because we were a thorn in their sides,” Stanwyck insisted. “We were developing what they wanted to develop but they couldn’t. We had done it two years ahead of them.”

Stanwyck said his company is now working with Belfort Instruments in Baltimore, which has a weather station that is now being used to beta test the Internet system. He admitted that it has only a single, non-IFR-certified altimeter.

According to Stanwyck, his company is in a Catch-22 situation. “You can do this if the manufacturers say it’s okay,” he said, “but you know they’re not going to say it’s okay because they want to develop it on their own, and it’s a half-million-dollar market.”

Ralph Petragnani, marketing director of Qualimetrics, Sacramento, Calif., one of only two FAA-approved providers, acknowledged, “Bill Stanwyck has a comprehensive display. It seems to meet the needs of the user.” He added that Qualimetrics “continues to look at the software” as a possible option for its AWOS products.

Stanwyck said he is also investigating another approach suggested by the FAA’s New England region that involves intercepting the AWOS data “off the air” via the UHF datalink. While that would make it “valid data” and obviate the need for permission from Qualimetics, he claimed, most AWOS systems in the U.S. do not use datalink for distribution.

Stanwyck has equipment at several airports, and he said the operator at Chester County Airport in Coatesville, Pa., has been using Stanwyck Avionics software for almost two years. He said the airport even considers it a safety issue, recalling its students pilots when the system indicates that crosswinds and gusts on the single east-west runway are too high. “Our playback mode can even show the NTSB exactly what the weather was at the precise minute an accident occurred,” Stanwyck added.