1478 The Airborne Research Instrumentation Testing Opportunity (ARISTO)

Wednesday, 25 January 2017
4E (Washington State Convention Center )
Cory A. Wolff, NCAR, Broomfield, CO; and P. Romashkin, L. L. Lussier III, B. Baeuerle, and J. Stith

In 2015 the National Science Foundation (NSF) began a program to sponsor an annual flight campaign on one of its research aircraft (the C-130 and GV) operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).  The aircraft are managed by the Research Aviation Facility (RAF), which is part of the Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) and responsible for planning and executing the campaigns.  The purpose of this program, known as the Airborne Research Instrumentation Testing Opportunity or ARISTO, is to provide regular flight test opportunities for newly developed or highly modified instruments as part of their development effort. The NSF community has expressed a strong desire for regularly scheduled flight-testing programs to be able to test instrumentation, data systems, inlets, and software.  ARISTO allows this testing in a low-pressure environment where any issues or problems will not affect the scientific goals of a large-scale field campaign.  For this reason it is also a good experience for students who may be learning about the operation of an instrument or have not had previous exposure to a field project.  They are also able to contribute to flight planning exercises and gain experience in acting as an instrument scientist during the program.

ARISTO is conducted at the Research Aviation Facility at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield, Colorado.  Applications for instruments wanting to participate are due five to six months before flights begin.  The applications are reviewed, a feasibility is developed that takes factors such as instrument readiness and integration effort into account, and an independent panel makes a recommendation to NSF on the the instruments that should participate.  This recommendation also includes the aircraft to be used, which is often influenced by the requested instruments, upcoming field campaigns, and the RAF schedule.  Participation is determined by the ranking of the instruments based on the following prioritized criteria:

  • Priority 1: Instrumentation that is essential to an NSF-funded or proposed field campaign but that has yet to be test flown and certified on an NSF/NCAR aircraft.  

  • Priority 2: Instrumentation that has recently been developed or is being modified as part of a funded NSF grant or cooperative agreement.

  • Priority 3: Instrumentation that has a high likelihood of being routinely used by the NSF community in future field campaigns.

  • Priority 4: Instrumentation that has a high likelihood of being ready for flight-testing and complies with all EOL/RAF certification guidelines.

  • Priority 5: Instrumentation that is of high relevance to unfulfilled needs in the Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities (LAOF) and/or in the U.S. airborne research fleet.

The payload is developed starting with the highest priority instruments and working down the list until all instruments are onboard or the aircraft is full.  At this point instrument teams are notified of their success or failure, instrument documentation is prepared, and the upload is scheduled, usually starting four to six weeks before the beginning of the flight campaign.  The flight campaign consists of 20 flight hours, spread over three weeks.  Flights are planned to allow the ARISTO participants to successfully test their instruments based on requirements which are described in the initial application.  Past flights have performed maneuvers for cloud, aerosol, and pollutant sampling, wind measurements, sun tracking, and intercomparisons with ground instruments.  Due to the limited hours most flights are focused in and around Colorado, though some have gone as far as Oklahoma and the Pacific Northwest to find the right conditions to meet testing requirements.

Two ARISTO campaigns were successfully completed in 2015 and 2016, and a summary of these projects  will be presented.  Preparations for the 2017 campaign are underway, with flights scheduled to take place in February and March.  The next ARISTO campaign is likely to occur in the summer of 2018, and details on the schedule and how to apply will be discussed.

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