Yesterday we had our last StratoClim measurement flight here in Kathmandu. Currently no follow up project with the Geophysica is planned. During the preparation phase on the apron it was raining, matching the mood of seeing the Geophysica taking off for the last measurement flight.

Looking for protection against the rain under the wing of Geophysica, before the last measurement flight.

Problems with the exact coordinates of the planned flight track appeared and communication with the airport tower led to a take-off delay of 1,5h with running instruments. Even though it was not really warm outside, some instruments running so long on the ground had problems with overheating.

Altogether, the campaign was a huge success with 8 measurement flights in the Asian monsoon. After the cancelled test campaign in Kiruna, Sweden due to political issues and the replacement phase 1 campaign in Kalamata, Greece with flooding issues and challenging conditions in the hangar, the well organized and smoothly running campaign here in Kathmandu is a pleasant surprise. A meeting to present measurement results is planned for November in Rome.

Personally, I experienced this campaign as easy going, especially compared to the last campaign in Kalamata. The instrument I am working with operated throughout all 8 measurement flights, without any complications.

As a highlight ending, a Mt. Everest sightseeing flight with Buddha Air happened this morning for everyone from StratoClim, who wanted to join for a fair price. Because we work in their hangar, the organization of the flight with Buddha Air was easy.

Mount Everest, seen from the sightseeing flight this morning. (picture by Corinna Kloss)

Since the StratoClim campaign has now finished, this is the last blog entry from me. However, another atmospheric campaign is starting soon in Shannon, Ireland with the German research aircraft HALO, which you will be informed about in this blog.

Last night Kalamata was hit by a flood and most of us were affected by it. Already yesterday and during the night we had several storms and strong rain here. We woke up from water streaming in our rooms and had to rescue ourselves one level up. Everyone is fine and we found another hotel to spend the last days in. However, the demage at the hotel is huge. Our rental cars were flushed away and clothes from our luggage are soaked in or at least smell like dirt. One dog that we saw every day going to breakfast was on a leash and and couldn’t rescue himself.

For the campaign that means that todays measurement flight was cancelled, the option for another one tomorrow is currently discussed. Everyone scheduled to leave today cannot.

One thing is for sure.. This was an event/adventure that we won’t ever forget..

Here are some impressions:

During the night, after escaping to the first floor.

During the night, after escaping to the first floor.

My room, after the water went down again.

My room, after the water went down again.

Decreasing water level.

Lower water level.

Can you spot one of our rental cars?

Can you spot one of our rental cars?


Two out of four planned measurement flights have already been made. Collected data show a lot of potential for nice atmospheric studies and analysis. One group is especially excited after they saw that during the last flight Geophysica – like predicted – really went through an ice cloud (which they study with their instrument).

Next week is the last week of the campaign here in Kalamata, Greece and although one week seems like a long time, with all of the preparation it is hard to fit two more measurement flights in. One was originally planned for today, but unfortunately one instrument showed some major technical problems yesterday night, so this morning the flight for today was spontaneously cancelled. Many of us used that decision to take a day off after 7 days of long and hard work (and although we are on a campaign, where weekends don’t exist, it’s still Saturday 😉 ), others are back in the hanger to fix/improve some components of their instrument. I use the spare time to write another blog entry.

The next flight will either take place on Monday or Tuesday.

The preparation for one of those flights already starts the day before, when all instruments are installed. For our instrument (AMICA) for example, a crane has to be ordered to lift it to the top of the aircraft.

Early in the morning of the flight day, usually around 6 until 7 a.m. scientists come to the hangar to do some last minute preparation (for example warming up the instrument, fixing the inlet, software or logger programming …).

Last minute preparation before flight. Sunrise in the back. Picture by Brian Leen

Last minute preparation before flight. Sunrise in the back. Picture by Brian Leen

At 7:30 Geophysica is pulled out of the hanger and rolled to the apron. On the apron all scientists have to wear a high-visibility-vest.

high-visibility-vests are requested on the apron. A shortage of vests can lead to collegues sharing one ;)

high-visibility-vests are requested on the apron. A shortage of vests can lead to colleagues sharing one 😉

A minute by minute schedule, considering the need of every instrument, is followed. In general: The aircraft is connected to Ground power, instruments are switched on, the pilot takes his seat, engines of the aircraft are switched on, the Ground power is disconnected and Geophysica is ready to fly (at around 9:30 a.m.).

Geophysica taking off. Picture by Brian Leen.

Geophysica taking off. Picture by Brian Leen.

One point that on paper is estimated to take 5 minutes, but really takes around half an hour is ‘pilot takes his seat’. Because Geophysica is a high altitude aircraft (up to 21 km) the pilot is dressed in something that looks more like an astronaut costume to me, rather than a normal pilot uniform. He is connected to oxygen bottles and the whole process is more complex, than just sitting down. One measurement flight takes around 4 hours and it is really exciting to see the aircraft taking off and landing,

.. which we will see again in a few days.

After the Kiruna Test campaign did not happen as planned, the main StratoClim campaign in India during the Asian Monsoon phase this year has been shifted to next year. Those news were unexpected as we visited an India training course, got medical advice for the journey and already sent one container with equipment to India, which is now slowly on its way back. As a PhD student and new to the community I still have to get used to disappointing, unexpected and sudden cancellations of campaigns/events that already have been planned in small detail.

For this year an alternative was found: Another campaign will take place in Kalamata, Greece from 22nd of August to 9th of September.

From Forschungszentrum Jülich, the container is packed with all the equipment and instruments and is now on its way to Kalamata. The last pieces were packed yesterday 11 pm.