The Atmospheric Research Team reflects on our longest campaign to date

 Sep 12, 2016

A reflection on our time in India as written by David Simpson, the assigned Project Manager for the MONSOON campaign.  This campaign was the longest, and arguably most complex scientific campaign  since commencement of operations in June 2004.

The ARA B146 has just completed a major ten-week science campaign in India. The project named MONSOON operated between May and July 2016. Our aircraft operated in India at the request of the Indian Government Department of Ministry for Earth Sciences. The campaign was a large grant collaboration project between the UK and Indian Governments involving Ground, Air and Sea based equipment, making measurements to study and understand the Monsoon weather.


This was the first time a UK registered science aircraft has operated in India. Various Indian scientific organisations and Universities, along with the UK Met Office, National Environmental Research Council and UK Universities, were involved in collecting the data.


The aircraft also had the opportunity to obtain science measurements over the Bay of Bengal in conjunction with the Indian Research ship the Sindhu Sadhana. These where politically very important flights for future collaboration projects as they involved, Indian scientists working on a British registered aircraft, and British scientists working on board an Indian registered ship. The Indian and UK Governments have signed a ten-year memorandum of understanding, to promote science projects between the two Countries.


The Science campaign in India concluded with a VIP visit from Dr Harsh Vardhan, Hon'ble Minister of Science, Technology and Earth Sciences. Dr Nafeez, Research Councils UK, Dr. Alexander Evans, Deputy British High Commissioner, Dr. Maheskumar, National Facility for Airborne Research India, dignitaries from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and various representatives of Indian Universities.

The guests were hosted by Airtask and FAAM staff. The visitors enjoyed presentations from the Principal scientists involved in the campaign explaining what we were trying to accomplish, a tour to view our aircraft, followed by a short familiarisation flight of approx. two hours. This was to experience the airborne science platform that had been used.   


During the final presentations Airtask were repeatedly praised by the participants for getting the aircraft to India and operating a difficult flight schedule in extreme weather conditions. The temperatures encountered ranged from 38C to 51C, with humidity levels at 90%. This combined with the heavy rainfall levels made operations extremely difficult. In spite of these hurdles the aircraft managed to fly 90 plus flying hours in country.


It remains to be seen what results will be formulated after the data is processed. This data could take up to three years to collated due to the vast amounts of new information collected. The Principal Investigators from the main science teams advise the initial results are extremely exciting. They believe many research papers will be compiled over the next few years which will definitely help with better forecasting of the Monsoon weather helping the lives of lots of people in India.