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

Next Gen King Air

Top of new airplaneTop of new airplane

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.


Bottom view of research modifications schematic for UWKA-2  Top view of research modifications schematic for UWKA-2


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.

Timeline (updated February 2023)

The baseline aircraft was purchased in mid-2020. Transitioning the aircraft to one capable of conducting atmospheric research with special mission and research modifications and the infrastructure to support airborne instruments will take several years. The current UWKA is now retired from service as of Summer 2022, with a transition period currently underway to modify, test, and certify the UWKA-2. We anticipate that UWKA-2 will be available for request through the NSF LAOF program in Summer 2024. The completion of all upgrades, including new lidar, radar, and communication capabilities will come online through 2024.

Timeline of UWKA-2 modfication process

Next Gen King Air Modifications (click here to read monthly progress updates)

Click on the pictures below to view captions and rotate through the photo gallery.


The next-generation King Air 350 as initially purchased by the university
Avionics upgrades in progress
Engine exhaust stacks