Research aircrafts do not usually fly straight to a point and back, as you would expect for instance a passenger plane to go. Observing flight tracks of such a plane give very funny patterns, hence. See for yourself.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday we had a measurement flight going over India to the Bay of Bengal region. The whole flight procedure was according to schedule (i.e. the take-off was planned for 1 pm and also actually happened at 1 pm). It was a successful flight and the data look promising.
It is a fairly calm day today and the preparations on the instruments for the next flight have started.
An engine inspection at the aircraft was done during the last night so that the next measurement flight can happen tomorrow either in the morning or afternoon (which is still point of discussion).
It seems that the last possible flight day is the 10th of August. At the moment 6 out of the planned 9 measurement flights took place. Hence, in order to have 9 flights at the end of this campaign, we have to fly Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so three days in a row. This gives the scientists little time to download the data and prepare their instruments in between flights.
If a flight is planned, the day can start very early (i.e. waking up at 3 am might be necessary for some people). Breakfast at the hotel starts at 6 am and we have the choice between curry and western breakfast. The people at the hotel are extremely nice, even the decoration during breakfast is made for us (picture) and they plan a traditional Nepalese evening for us with live music.
From the hotel there are a 2-3 shuttle busses going in the morning to the hangar (between 3:45 am and 6:30 am). For our standards, the traffic is extremely chaotic and the air on the streets is very dusty and polluted. Before entering the airport to get to the hangar we show our passports.
At the hangar there are offices, but the scientists working with measurement instruments stay close to the aircraft and their instruments inside the hangar.
For flight Geophysica is rolled out 2.5 hours before take-off, yesterday that was at 5:45 am. The scientists follow, equipped with air conditioning and tools for their instruments. The aircraft is fueled, the pilot arrives, takes his seat and we wait for the tower confirmation that the Geophysica can take its position for take off. Yesterday the take-off was delayed by almost an hour and took off at 9 am. It is incredible how close we are allowed to the runway!
For some scientists the time during flight is the only time they can explore the region and have a look at some temples around.
As soon as the Geophysica comes back, data from the instruments are downloaded. This is also the moment, when we discover whether our instruments worked during flight or whether some problem(s) appeared. Most instruments are dismounted again. Quick looks are prepared (visualization of the data) and are made visible for everyone. Then the instruments are prepared for the next flight and integrated back onto the aircraft. This preparation phase takes 1-2 days.
2 busses go back to the hotel between 3 pm and 9 pm. Yesterday evening we had our campaign party. A party that is usually organized once per campaign to celebrate the success and spend some time together away of work. Those parties are usually pretty fancy and at nice locations. Yesterday for example, we had dinner with drinks at the ‘garden of dreams’, a tourist attraction, partly reserved for us.
After what seemed to be a slow beginning (delay of the research aircraft arrival, delay of EMC tests and also delay of equipment shipping to the campaign site), the campaign is now running at full speed and already three successful measurement flights took place (July 27th, 29th and 31st )! During those flights measurements in the Asian monsoon anticyclone were made. In total 9 flights are planned, so there are still 6 to go. The last flight is currently scheduled for the 12th of August. Hence, every other day a research flight is planned. The next one is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
25 instruments are implemented on the Geophysica and almost all of them worked during those flights. However, prior to take off for the first flight, the aircraft had to wait in the sun for around 1.5 hours and some instruments overheated and did not perform measurements during this flight..
Together with a few colleges I just arrived in Kathmandu and can therefore write about on-site impressions from now on..
Finally after years of challenges and struggles the main campaign of StratoClim to investigate the asian monsoon has started!!
The research aircraft, M55 Geophysica, landed at the campaign site in Nepal, Kathmandu today (see picture) and is now ready to carry our atmospheric instruments into the upper troposphere and stratosphere during the asian monsoon.
But why is the investigation of the asian monsoon so important?
The asian monsoon is seen as a major pathway for tropospheric gases into the stratosphere, bringing large air masses quickly from the ground into high altitudes. In the stratosphere, atmospheric gases have a more direct impact on the climate, as they directly interact with solar radiation. The investigation of the asian monsoon transport mechanisms is the main goal of this measurement campaign. The improved understanding of these processes in and around the asian monsoon from this campaign will contribute to global climate models, which will, as a result, give more accurate predictions of the climate development, providing important information for climate change policy making. The M55 Geophysica reaches altitudes of 20 km and is therefore suitable to bring our instruments in the area of interest.
Personally, I am not yet in Kathmandu, but will be there to give on-site information in August.
This is the M-55 Geophysica, a Russian high altitude research aircraft. It reaches altitudes up to 21 km and has a flight duration of up to 5 hours. It was built as a Russian spy plane in the 1970s and was reconstructed to an atmospheric research aircraft in the 1990s.
It arrived yesterday shortly after us and is now sitting in the huge Arena Arctica here in Kiruna.
The plan is to have two test flights during the next two weeks. The first one Thursday 21st of April and the second on Monday 25th. Until then we still need to test the integration onto the aircraft, do lab tests with the instruments and some other preparations.