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UW’s King Air Provides Research Opportunity for Embry-Riddle Faculty and Students

April 1, 2014
UW’s King Air research aircraft is providing atmospheric research opportunities for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University faculty and staff through April 9 as part of a program sponsored by NSF.

The University of Wyoming’s King Air research aircraft is providing a two-week research opportunity for students, staff and faculty of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Meteorology Department through April 9.

More than two dozen faculty and students from the department on the university’s Prescott, Ariz., campus are serving as flight scientists onboard the King Air, a specially instrumented atmospheric science research craft. They will monitor data collection and launch weather balloons to provide atmospheric profile observations.

King Air pilot Tom Drew and Jeff French, King Air project manager and senior research scientist in UW’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, presented a public seminar with Embry-Riddle faculty to launch activities March 28. Topics included Federal Aviation Administration restrictions for flight close to terrain; limitations for science-driven flight track scheduling ; forecasting requirements; engineering aspects of adding new instrumentation; formulating scientific objectives; time/space sampling protocols; and in-flight communications and coordination with other aircraft, according to an Embry-Riddle news release.

“Embry-Riddle is a high-quality university that focuses on education in aeronautical science and engineering. The King Air group is working with faculty and students within their engineering, meteorology and flight operations departments,” French says. “It is a tremendous opportunity for students (and faculty) at ERAU to have direct access to an aircraft and support group that focus on utilizing an aircraft to solve scientific (atmospheric) problems.”

During the two-week period, the King Air group is available for 32 research flight hours, which breaks down into about eight flights, French says.

The activities are part of the Student Training in Airborne Research and Technology (START) Program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. Embry-Riddle is the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace.

Melanie Wetzel, a visiting professor in Embry-Riddle’s Department of Meteorology, contacted UW last summer to begin discussions on this education-based project, French says. With consultation from Al Rodi, UW professor and department head of atmospheric science, Wetzel submitted a proposal to NSF, which funded this spring’s project, French says.

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