GREENVILLE, Maine — It has taken several years, but Greenville has most of the funds it needs to upgrade the weather reporting equipment at the Greenville Municipal Airport.
Greenville officials recently were notified that the Federal Aviation Administration had approved $109,037 for the airport project.
“This is a long-awaited partnership between LifeFlight, the FAA, the town of Greenville and the DOT,” Town Manager John Simko said Monday. All capital airport projects are funded by the three governmental agencies, but this one is a little different because LifeFlight has committed to spending up to $70,000 for the project, he said.
“The project will allow for much-improved weather information for all pilots coming and going to the airport for the whole region,” Simko said.
Town officials, the airport committee and local pilots have been trying for years to get funding for the upgrade. The town initially received a grant in 2002 to relocate the National Weather Service equipment. The site work that was done in 2002 will be used for the new project, he said.
The weather service equipment at the airport does not provide pilots, including those who work for LifeFlight, enough information about the weather in the region, Simko said. In particular, it doesn’t include visibility or ceiling information in the region, which LifeFlight needs to navigate safely.
“It’s kind of like driving with or without a GPS,” he said. LifeFlight has strict parameters and protocols to follow. If there’s any doubt about the weather in the region, LifeFlight pilots cannot fly because of safety regulations, according to Simko.
LifeFlight made 131 landings at the Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital and Nursing Home in Greenville last year, plus about two dozen more landings in surrounding communities in the Moosehead Lake region, Simko said. In comparison, LifeFlight made 115 landings at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft last year.
LifeFlight will have the visibility and cloud height information necessary to operate more safely when the new weather equipment is in place this summer.
“With what we’ve got planned, it should not cost us anything to run it,” Simko said. LifeFlight has personnel trained to run diagnostics on this specific type of system so they can maintain it, he said. “It’s going to be a significant savings over time and we greatly appreciate that.”
Simko was very appreciative of the federal funds. “It’s a long time in coming and we’re glad the FAA has funded it,” he said.