$90,000 Weather Systems Means Safer Mercy Flight Missions

By Jeff Martin

In the nine years that Marc Boies has been flying rescue missions for Mercy Flight of Western New York, there have been a few times when he would have loved the AWOS.

An acronym for Automated Weather Observing System, AWOS is a new feature at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital in Springville.

Boies, director of flight operations at Mercy Flight of WNY, said the $90,000 hospital investment will be invaluable for both the public, who often depend on in-depth weather forecasts to plan events, and pilots, like Boies, whose awareness of current and future weather conditions could save a life.

Mercy Flight flies about 1,300 calls annually throughout Western New York and about 200 annually in the corridor that includes Springville, Ellicottville and surrounding areas.

“What this does is fill a gap between Olean and Buffalo,” Boies said. “And that area is one of the most challenging, weather-wise.”

The new system gives pilots a significant amount of information, including the basics of temperature and visibility. But it goes further by providing information about cloud layers up to 12,000 feet, which helps aircraft — specifically helicopters carrying injured patients — navigate safely and smoothly.

“There have been many, many times when Mercy Flight could have used this kind of technology,” Boies said.

Navigating weather patterns in Western New York is difficult enough. Navigating the weather in that corridor south of Rice Road, or within the Boston Hills area, is even more of a challenge.

“It’s difficult for all pilots,” he said.

The system provides quick analysis of all weather category reporting. Using state-of-the-art sensors and a ceilometer, or a cloud height sensor, pilots will now be able to anticipate and prepare for challenging weather systems.

Boies can recall a few times in the past nine years when calls for assistance had to be delayed or denied entirely because of weather. If pilots don’t have to means to anticipate challenging weather, pilots don’t fly.

“This will give us all the information we need to make those flights,” he said.

The public can already call (716) 592-4400 for current weather information in Springville, but they can also get online and visit www.saiawos3.com/2NK6/index2.html for more in-depth weather information — much like pilots do.

“This system shows just to what lengths Bertrand Chaffee goes to help the public,” Boies said. “People don’t know how valuable this will be to us, especially during ski season when people need it a lot.”