Eyes on the sky

The Kenai Municipal Airport will be getting a quartet of publicly accessible, real-time cameras, meant to allow pilots planning a flight into Kenai to see local weather conditions and visibility.

Once the four cameras — each facing a different direction — are mounted on the airport’s Kenai Operations Building on Willow Street, anyone will be able view them via the Federal Aviation Administration’s website at avcam.faa.gov.

Currently, pilots can get information about the weather at the Kenai airport via an automated weather station that updates every hour, or by calling the control tower for more detailed information, said Kenai Airport Manager Mary Bondurant.

“These weather cameras are all throughout the state of Alaska, ” Bondurant said. “They’re a really valuable tool for people who want to plan trips and see where they’re going.”

The FAA has previously installed similar arrays of four weather cameras at eleven locations on the Kenai Peninsula, though the closest to Kenai are at the Soldotna Airport and in Nikiski’s Gray Cliff area.

Kenai’s city government will supply the power and Internet connection for the cameras, while the cameras themselves will be paid for and installed by the U.S Air Force’s Third Operations Support Squadron, based at Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, according to the text of the resolution that the Kenai city council passed Wednesday, allowing the squadron to install the cameras.

Kenai Airport Manager Mary Bondurant didn’t know when the squadron would be installing the cameras or when they would come online. Elmendorf Air Force representatives didn’t reply to requests for information.

The cameras will also make the Kenai airport a better potential landing site for the Air Force’s F-22 “Raptor” stealth fighter jets.

“The motivation for the webcams is partially to see weather in the Inlet and partially for F-22 Operations staff to view the airport as an alternate airfield,” Kenai city manager Paul Ostrander wrote in a memo attached to the resolution.

In October 2016, a pair of F-22s based at Elmendorf-Richardson made a trial landing in Kenai to investigate the possibility of using it as an alternate landing site when weather conditions don’t allow the jets to land at Elmendorf-Richardson. FAA and Air Force officials have since been discussing changes required before the Kenai airport could be used as a regular alternate landing site.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com

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