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King Air airplane in background with King Air Research Aircraft: Atmospheric Science

Facility Overview

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In October 2019, the University of Wyoming was awarded a grant from NSF through the Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure Program to develop the next-generation King Air to replace the current UWKA and serve the NSF Lower Atmospheric Observing Facilities (LAOF) program and NSF-funded investigators for the next several decades. The 5-year effort will result in a more capable airborne laboratory while occupying the same niche in the NSF LAOF pool as the current aircraft. The next-generation King Air (referred to here as UWKA-2) will include additional ports with a larger payload, greater power capacity, longer endurance, improved investigator access and unprecedented suite of current and new instruments. It will be the platform of choice for a broad range of investigations, both small and large campaigns, for education-focused and research-focused campaigns, serving new and seasoned PIs, covering the spectrum of atmospheric and related sciences.


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Top View and Bottom View Schematic Research Modifications for UWKA-2

Research Capabilities

UWKA-2 will be built upon a modern Beechcraft King Air 350i (B300) and will include more than 50 modifications specifically designed for accommodating existing and new research instrumentation, including radars and lidars, and cloud physics, air chemistry, and aerosol in situ probes. Enhanced air-to-ground communication capabilities will provide the infrastructure and connectivity necessary to allow for new initiatives that will engage investigators and train undergraduate and graduate students through a real-time immersive experience and instrument and flight control from the ground.


Following the purchase of the aircraft in mid-2020, nearly two years is needed to complete the special mission and research modifications. During this time, the current UWKA will continue to be supported through the NSF LAOF. In spring 2022, the current UWKA will be retired and a one-year transition period to UWKA-2 will begin. We anticipate that UWKA-2 will be available for request through the NSF LAOF program in early- to mid-2023. The completion of all upgrades, including new lidar, radar, and communication capabilities will come online through 2023 into mid-late 2024.

Timeline of next gen

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