By RICHARD DUKE
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
About six months after U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor visited Conway to announce the delivery of $5.8 million in federal funds for the new municipal airport, he returned to check on progress.
He also had a request from the Airport Commission.
Pryor visited Conway and sat in on a meeting with the commission, listening to its main concern, an Instrument Landing System (ILS). The project, which has a cost of about $3-4 million for the entire system, is actually the last system with an installation at the airport itself. The long-term future for many larger airports will depend on Global Positioning Systems, which will place more costs on to airplanes and airlines rather than airports.
But the ILS is needed at the new airport, members of the commission say, to allow planes to land other times than sunny daylight. The analogy was used that the airport was "a car we just bought, but we can’t drive at night or in bad weather."
Pryor said he "would do all I can" to search for funding for the airport, but he did have concerns that the Federal Aviation Administration would give long term funding for a system that might be the last of its breed.
An ILS is a system that makes landing a plane much safer by allowing for a precision approach using a combination of radio signals and, in many cases, high-intensity lighting arrays to enable a safe landing during instrument meteorological conditions, such as low ceilings or reduced visibility due to fog, rain, or blowing snow.
Without an ILS, some pilots would have to re-route to Little Rock or Searcy in certain conditions
Those in attendance at the meeting said that the priority, however, would be to have access to an Automated Weather Observing System, which would give those in Conway accurate and up-to-date weather information. Currently, Conway has to rely on aviation weather information from Little Rock.
The commission expressed its appreciation for the work Pryor has done on behalf of the airport so far.
"We will try very hard to get something done," Pryor said. "This has been such a community-wide effort, and everyone knows that you all know your stuff."