BAE Systems Research Aircraft in Arctic Cloud Study to Improve Climate Predictions

A combined total of 70 hours of scientific, test and transit flying is planned.


Prestwick, Scotland......A BAE Systems research aircraft is about to help scientists measure cloud properties in the Arctic in a bid to improve Arctic climate predictions.

The BAe 146 Atmospheric Research Aircraft (ARA) is owned by BAE Systems and was converted by BAE Systems Regional Aircraft into one of the foremost atmospheric research aircraft in the world. This specialist scientific aircraft is a vital tool in the study of weather patterns, climate change and global warming, flying some 500 science hours a year, the highest of any atmospheric research aircraft in the world.

For its latest campaign, the BAe 146 ARA departed today from its home base at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, for a three-week tour of duty based at Kiruna in northern Sweden. From there, for its scientific research sorties, it will fly the 2.5 hour leg to Longyearbyen Airport on the Norwegian island of Svalbard which is within the Arctic Circle and the northernmost airport in the world that receives scheduled airline services.

After refuelling, the BAe 146 ARA will fly its missions from Svalbard before returning again for more fuel and then heading back to Kiruna. A combined total of 70 hours of scientific, test and transit flying is planned.

Since the BAe 146 ARA entered service in 2004 the Prestwick-based Regional Aircraft engineering team has been responsible for designing, approving and certificating over 20 major configuration changes on the BAe 146 ARA. These include changes to instrumentation and upgrading of equipment as required by the scientists either for specific missions or to further enhance the overall capabilities of the aircraft. BAE Systems Regional Aircraft retains the full large aircraft engineering expertise to fulfil this role.

This latest campaign called ACCACIA (Aerosol Cloud-Coupling and Climate Interactions in the Arctic), consists of a team of scientists led by the University of Leeds and in collaboration with the University of Manchester, the University of York, the University of East Anglia, the British Antarctic Survey and the UK Met Office.

The ACCACIA campaign is part of the National Environment Research Council’s Arctic Research Programme which advances the UK’s research capability in the Arctic, enabling better interpretation of current climate change science, and what the implications are for policymakers and Arctic communities.

For this campaign, BAE Systems had over 30 engineers at Prestwick working to design, approve and certificate seven modifications that were required by the scientists to meet the campaign requirements.

These included the introduction of a new wing pylon canister instrument for the detection of cloud droplets ranging from 2-75 micron by laser-initiated light scattering principles.  Also, an existing wing-pylon canister instrument was modified to allow it to better operate in Arctic conditions and improvements were carried out to the aircraft Data Logging System.

The team consisted of specialists from mechanical design/systems, electrical systems, avionics systems, aerodynamics/acoustics, structures/stress technical publications, weight and balance and airworthiness.

The aim of the ACCACIA campaign is to reduce the current large uncertainty in the representation of the Arctic climate, the main aspect being the poor understanding and representation of cloud and aerosol processes in climate models in general and in the Arctic in particular.

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