TELLURIDE – Every holiday season, visitors flock to Telluride to ski, and many arrive here through the Telluride Regional Airport, TEX. But with the region’s snowy December and frigid temperatures, landing at or departing from the Telluride airport – the highest in North America – can be a tricky procedure, given its short runway and variable winter weather conditions.
This month, TEX began receiving Thermal Aerodrome Forecasts, or TAFs, a service provided by the National Weather Service. Every six hours, TEX receives a detailed TAF forecast, specific to a five-mile radius around the runway. TAFs provide TEX with accurate accounts of such variables as wind speed and direction, visibility, precipitation and wind shear.
TEX air traffic control staff receives the reports from the NWS, and then relays the latest information about weather conditions to pilots.
Since the airport began receiving TAFs, airport operators and pilots have been able to make better weather planning decisions, said TEX Manager Rich Nuttall.
“Additional weather forecasts we receive, coupled with the advanced radar coverage that went into operation this past summer, are continued improvements that will help our airport,” he added.
This summer, TEX installed wide-area multilateration systems, which offer improved radar capabilities for air traffic control, which help to better-predict weather changes.
NWS meteorologist Jim Pringle is enthusiastic about TEX’s recent improvements in weather prediction, thanks to the TAFs. “Some of the smaller regional airports that don’t have access to TAFs can’t anticipate all these variables in the weather that are essential to safe flying,” Pringle said.
While TAF reports contain much crucial information, the most important is probably its updates on wind shear, specifically regarding the way in which the wind’s speed is changing and its direction over the runway.
“What’s so important about TAFs is that they [detect] wind shear near the runway and report [it] to the airport,” Pringle said. Without TAFs, he explained, “the airport doesn’t know about wind shear until a pilot tells them.”