Mark Twain is said to have remarked, “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it,” but Fargo Jet Center (FJC) and Weather Modification, Inc. (WMI) qualify as exceptions. The two, joined at the hip on Hector International Airport, Fargo, N.D., are actually doing a lot about the weather.
Representatives of FJC and WMI are at the Fargo Jet exhibit at the Avfuel booth (No. N5121). The sister companies work closely together, according to Darren Hall, FJC marketing vice president. WMI partners with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on a variety of weather research and modification programs and also fields aircraft for customers needing cloud seeding and other special-mission applications. Fargo Jet Center evolved out of WMI in 1995. “WMI is Fargo Jet Center’s largest customer,” he said. “We do all its aircraft maintenance and modifications. The FJC presence around the world builds its business, and WMI projects generate work for FJC.
“We believe the professionals at WMI are the most experienced and expert in the atmospheric sciences and weather modification,” Hall said. WMI has been modifying and operating aircraft for cloud seeding and atmospheric research since 1961. Today it maintains and operates a fleet of more than 35 twin-engine aircraft in various configurations to meet the needs of every client. The two companies are currently working on a supplemental type certificate to give the Honeywell TFE731 turbofan engine a heavier duty, hail-resistant inlet.
“We use several aircraft models in our own operations, although we can adapt our weather equipment to virtually any platform for specific customer needs,” Hall said. WMI has STCs for cloud-seeding equipment on the Hawker 400; King Air 350, 200 and C90; and the two companies can provide either already modified aircraft for specific missions or modify customer aircraft to perform the operations required. WMI also performs requested maintenance and/or upgrades during the modification process. WMI/FJC modification specialists accommodate missions that include VIP transport, air ambulance, aerial photography, remote sensing, telemetry, environmental monitoring, cloud seeding, atmospheric chemistry and measurement, all with 24/7 worldwide flight operations and maintenance support.
Fargo Jet Center ranked eighth this year in the 2011 AIN FBO Survey. The FBO is an Avfuel dealer and operates an FAA Part 145 repair station offering aircraft maintenance and avionics services as well as aircraft sales, a Cessna Pilot Center flight school and an Argus Gold-rated charter service. Soon, FJC will host Hector International Airport’s U.S. Port of Entry with a new permanent office connected to the FBO terminal. Currently, Hall said, “Ninety-nine percent of [international] passengers clear through our terminal with on-site customs. The new facility will serve all international departures and arrivals right here.”
Jim Sweeney, FJC’s president and his brother Pat, CEO, are both University of North Dakota graduates. They are closely linked to the UND aviation studies program and have hired more than 350 intern pilots in connection with a UND class in weather modification. Hall said FJC plans “to resume an international training program to meet a worldwide pilot shortage. We just took delivery of the first of 10 Cessna 162 Skycatcher trainers we will accept through 2012. They’ll go into flight schools at both Fargo and St. Paul, Minnesota.”