Updated Radar Is Sought for Utah Valley

Fewer planes might crash into the mountains if the valley had digital airport surveillance radar, Utah County's mayors believe.

Provo Mayor Lewis Billings has enlisted the county's mayors on the Mountainland Regional Planning Committee in passing a resolution urging the state's congressional delegation to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to secure such a radar site for the county.

The radar system, known as the ASR-11, is needed to overcome a ''radar shadow'' that makes it impossible for controllers to view air traffic below 8,000 feet in Utah Valley, Billings said.

''This is not about economic development in Provo,'' Billings said.

''This is not about putting people in an office somewhere looking at a radar screen in Provo. This is about getting a radar device covering an area over our valley that is currently not covered.''

An FAA study in 2001 concluded that radar placed near Camp Williams likely would be most effective for both the Provo airport and Salt Lake City International Airport, Billings said.

''For us, it's not about pride of ownership,'' Billings said. ''It's the function.''

The Provo airport does have some cost benefits for the estimated $12 million facility.

Some infrastructure for the radar remains from a temporary ASR-9 system located at the airport during the 2002 Winter Games.

At the time, the FAA recognized the need for an additional radar site for Salt Lake International, but a campaign to keep the system in Provo after the Games was unsuccessful.

In July, the Utah Air Travel Commission sent a letter asking Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett and Reps. Rob Bishop, Jim Matheson and Chris Cannon to help get funds for radar coverage in Utah Valley.

The Utah senators have included language in the appropriations bill asking for financial consideration for the Utah Valley radar request, said Kent Millington, an executive committee member of the air travel commission.

Utah Valley State College officials also have asked the congressional delegation to help secure the funds.

According to a letter to Bennett from UVSC President William Sederburg, students in the college's aviation program account for about 65 percent of the Provo airport's annual operations.

Their practice area is out of radar range and that has contributed to numerous near collisions, Sederburg said.

Tower personnel keep track of the students with binoculars and mark their positions on a magnetic board.

''That is pretty fundamental tracking,'' said Raylene Ireland, Provo spokeswoman.

"That's something that should be a concern to all of us.''

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