Monday, June 24, 2013

Hernando County Commission to consider radar system for Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport

Barbara Behrendt, Tampa Bay Times
Monday, June 24, 2013 9:59am 


BROOKSVILLE — New equipment designed to enhance airport safety will be recommended to the Hernando County Commission today by Don Silvernell, manager of Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

The STARS (Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System) Lite Radar System would allow air traffic controllers in Hernando to see the same radar images as those at Tampa International Airport in real time, giving local controllers a visual heads-up of aircraft heading this way.

Currently, Hernando controllers keep track of aircraft through a radio system until an airplane is close enough for the tower to spot.

The system comes with a $393,375 price tag, with the Florida Department of Transportation picking up $300,000 of the cost.

Airport critics last month urged commissioners to learn more about the radar system before spending so much money on what one termed "an antiquated system."

During the May 28 commission meeting, pilot Dave Lemon said he didn't think the system was worth the money. Noting that only an average of six airplanes fly into the airport each hour, he said "it will be half a million dollars by the time we're done ... so that they can see an airplane fly in and out of Tampa, not Brooksville.''

Pilot Robert Rey argued that the aviation industry is moving away from radar to a satellite-based system known as ADS-B, or automatic dependent surveillance broadcast. Other airports have turned the STARS radar system down for that reason.

At the time, commissioners decided to delay their decision. Meanwhile, Silvernell has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration to get the price of the system down. The cost the commission will consider is $45,000 less than the original asking price.

Silvernell dismissed the concerns about radar becoming obsolete. STARS, he said, "is the system the FAA is putting in towers.''

County Commission Chairman Dave Russell, also a pilot, said that the STARS system is compatible with new technology and he intends to support the purchase.

"It gives the air traffic controller the ability to see tactically what's going on and not just hear what's going on,'' Russell said. "It takes the guesswork out of air traffic control.''


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