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HIAPER dazzles the crowd at its Jeffco debut

It’s here!


The new HIAPER aircraft makes its inaugural landing at Jeffco. (Photos by Carlye Calvin.)

The HIAPER aircraft arrived Friday, March 11, at Jeffco, dazzling more than 100 onlookers with a dramatic fly-by over the runway before touching down at 4:08 p.m. Formally named the High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research, the NSF/NCAR aircraft will serve the atmospheric science community’s research needs for the next several decades.

“Is she beautiful or what?” asked a beaming James Huning of NSF, who traveled on the plane from Savannah, Georgia, where it had undergone finishing touches.

“Superb science is going to come from this aircraft over the next 20 to 30 years,” said NCAR director Tim Killeen at a brief celebration at Jeffco after the plane landed.

Six years in the making, the $81.5 million aircraft is the largest community project in NCAR history. Its arrival marks the successful transformation of a Gulfstream V corporate jet into a research vessel suited for probing the troposphere and parts of the lower stratosphere on flights that can range up to 7,000 miles (11,200 kilometers) and reach an altitude of 51,000 feet (16,000 meters).

At Friday’s celebration, HIAPER received tributes from aides to Colorado senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar, as well as aides to congressmen Mark Udall and Bob Beauprez.


EOL's Jim Nolan (left) greets HIAPER project director Krista Laursen. At the top of the steps is Jim Huning, HIAPER program official at NSF.

Krisa Laursen, HIAPER project director, congratulated everyone who had worked to make the aircraft a reality. “A project like this really takes heart,” she said.

The plane was put through the paces on the flight from Georgia, reaching an altitude of 51,000 feet. EOL’s Henry Boynton, the co-pilot on the flight, gave HIAPER top marks. “It handles really nicely,” he said. “It has a lot of power.”

Researchers will begin taking HIAPER on local science missions in the fall. These early flights will allow the plane's pilots and technicians to familiarize themselves with the plane and perform some initial research.

The aircraft’s range, high-altitude capability, and maximum payload of 5,600 pounds of sensors puts it on the forefront of scientific discovery. HIAPER will collect data at the tops of storms and lower edge of the stratosphere, altitudes out of reach of most research aircraft. It will enable scientists to survey remote ocean regions in a single flight to learn more about interactions between the oceans and atmosphere.

NCAR will maintain and operate HIAPER at its RAF facility at Jeffco. NSF owns the plane, which will be used by the entire geoscience community. • David Hosansky


The aircraft backs into the new RAF hangar at Jeffco.



Staffers and others admire HIAPER in the hangar.


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