The general public, along with student pilots in the Professional Pilot Program at Selkirk College, now have access to another piece of the weather picture at the Castlegar Airport. Two web cameras are now available to broadcast up-to-the-minute images of weather conditions on the airport runway. The cameras are situated on the roof (facing North and South) of Selkirk College’s Aviation Training Centre, located at the Castlegar Airport. Anyone with access to the internet can view the images through Selkirk’s website.
The web images give students remotely-accessible weather information that they did not have before, a real asset when it comes to flight planning.
“Before the web cams, I’d have to come to the airport to know if I’d be able to fly that day. Now I can check the web cam images on-line from my home,” explains 19 year old Beau Stephenson from Long Beach, near Nelson. He is in his first year of Selkirk’s Professional Pilot Program.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot … for as long as I can remember.” Stephenson’s passion and dedication to flying led him to Selkirk’s Aviation Training Program. He researched flight schools across Canada and found that the one closest to home was the best.
Five highly-regarded instructors use a fleet of seven aircraft and a brand new state-of-the-art flight simulator to train students to be top notch pilots. 21 students combined account for 30 to 40 daily departures and landings every day of the week.
Why is it so challenging for pilots to land in Castlegar? “Because of the mountains that surround the airport. If only we could remove Mount Sentinel…” jokes Ray Preston, Chief Flying Instructor at Selkirk’s Aviation Training Centre.
“Large, wide valleys - the kind we don’t have in the West Kootenay - allow for a gradual, three degree descent, which in turn allows pilots to use an instrument landing system,” explains Preston. Instrument landing technology can guide pilots through thick, soupy fog or heavy snow storms right down to 200 feet above the runway, provided the aircraft is miles away from a mountainside.
However in the narrow valley where Castlegar Airport lies, pilots must be able to see the runway clearly through the cockpit window from above 2,500 feet. This is part of the airport’s safety procedure and indeed there has never been an accident. Flight delays, however, become part of the routine especially in winter and spring.
Next time you’re headed to Castlegar Airport and wondering about the weather, check the web-cam images at http://www.wkrairport.ca/webcams before you leave home, in addition to checking the other reliable sources for weather information including Environment Canada’s on-line forecast and the Weather Channel on television.
First published on January 21, 2009