Deployment of a Research Aircraft for Interdisciplinary Education

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 4:45 PM
125AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Melanie A. Wetzel, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, AZ; and D. Ivanova, J. R. French, L. D. Oolman, and T. D. Drew
Manuscript (495.7 kB)

A two-week deployment of the University of Wyoming King Air (UWKA) was conducted at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Prescott, Arizona during 25 March – 9 April 2014. “Student Training in Airborne Research and Technology” (START) was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) as an Educational Deployment activity of the Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) Program. The primary goals were to build knowledge of airborne atmospheric research for students and faculty across multiple academic disciplines and to collect a diverse set of aircraft observations for use in teaching, atmospheric model validation and the development of meteorological analysis and forecasting procedures to support the ERAU aviation training operations.

Research aircraft orientation and logistical planning, data collection and preliminary analysis for 10 flights were incorporated into the two-week field project. Students and faculty from the Departments of Meteorology, Aeronautical Sciences, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Global Security participated in the project. Seventeen students, eight faculty members and one participant from the National Weather Service (NWS) Flagstaff office flew on and operated instruments aboard the King Air. Data obtained from the UWKA and concurrent radiosonde launches were utilized for student research and will be integrated with future courses for specific instructional content and team research projects. The START program engaged students, faculty and other participants in learning several aspects of airborne research programs that bridge the atmospheric and aeronautical sciences. The flight missions collected valuable data sets for study and instruction in aviation hazards characteristic of the ERAU flight training base and region, and for application to operational weather forecasting. Students participating in this project gained experience and knowledge that is highly relevant to their academic programs and career opportunities.

Educational aspects for the students included direct participation in identifying flight mission plans, onboard data collection, launching radiosondes in support of the project missions, and preliminary analysis of data sets. The flights captured a wide variety of event conditions during the two-week project, including dust lofting, boundary layer evolution, turbulence, cloud microphysical structure, and acquisition of case studies for verification of mesoscale model simulations. Concentrating the flight operations in a region close to KPRC allowed capture of multiple conditions within single flight periods.

The AEROS software available from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) facilitated rapid viewing of aircraft data using time series, scatterplots, 2-D and 3-D flight tracks, particle size distributions, vertical profiles with multiple simultaneous parameters and time segment selection. AEROS has been particularly valuable for students from a variety of disciplines due to the ease of implementation. The AEROS real-time flight data monitoring capabilities were also very instructive for classes in session during individual flight missions. IDL and IDV are being applied for data analysis for upper-division students who have had prior training with these packages.

Students and faculty were involved in outreach communication for the project through publication of stories in the Horizons campus newspaper, photography and video capture. A university-wide seminar provided an overview of the START project objectives, a description of multiple scientific applications possible with UWKA research capabilities, case study observations of cloud icing risk from a research pilot's perspective, and a summary of ice crystal and cloud droplet size distributions related to cloud icing conditions. The UWKA was made available for public education at the ERAU Flight Center during a Discovery Day campus event.