STOCKTON - Early morning fog in the Central Valley is a problem for flights into and out of Stockton Metropolitan Airport, and officials are hoping to aggressively pursue funding from the Federal Aviation Administration for a new landing system.
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved upgrading the airport's lighting and landing system a legislative priority on Tuesday.
Airport executive director Harry Mavrogenes said a system upgrade could cost as much as $5 million, and the hope is the FAA would fund the majority of improvements.
He said the most pressing reason for an upgrade is to keep flights into and out of the airport from being delayed or diverted to other hubs.
"We have a cargo service which operates four flights a day," Mavrogenes told supervisors Tuesday. "Early-morning flights have been a problem due to the weather this season, and the fog, so the cargo company has told us, they're moving their early morning flights to Sacramento for now."
Mavrogenes said visibility on the airport's runway in the early morning is limited, and seven flights have been either delayed or diverted.
Staff conducted a study of weather conditions at the airport and found there are no serious fog conditions after 11 a.m., he said.
Deputy airport director Ron Elliott said the airport's current Category I landing system allows pilots the ability to land with a 200-foot ceiling and only a half-mile of visibility in foggy conditions.
An upgrade to Category II would allow pilots to land with a 100-foot ceiling and a quarter-mile of visibility in harsh weather conditions.
"So it's a huge upgrade," Elliott said. "Especially in the type of tule fog we have that actually moves across the fields."
Mavrogenes said typically the FAA would acquire a new landing system, then install and maintain the equipment.
In order to ensure the airport can have a new system installed as soon as possible, however, Mavrogenes suggested the county acquire the equipment on its own, then have the FAA install and maintain it.
The whole process to acquire, install and get the new system fully operational would take as much as five years, he said.
"We want to make sure we keep that service," Mavrogenes said. "Having this system and pressing the FAA to fund it, I think, is going to be very critical for our future in almost everything we do, from domestic to international flights, as well as flights that happen in the late evening and early morning."
Airport administration intends to list the system upgrade as a One Voice priority for the San Joaquin Council of Governments' 2017 trip to Washington, D.C., from April 30 to May 4.