One of the pioneers of the Research Aviation Facility (RAF) is now its most recent retiree. Ed Brown was hired by NCAR in 1964 and helped lay the groundwork for what became RAF. He began his formal retirement last month. (Ed has been on medical leave since 1993.)
Ed's illustrious career in instrument design for aircraft and atmospheric research began at the University of Chicago, where he helped equip a bevy of planes--B-17s, B-50s, C-78s, and others--for cloud physics research during the 1950s and early 1960s. He briefly joined the Federal Aviation Administration before coming to Boulder and NCAR. Ed played a key role in taking the RAF into high-altitude research with the acquisition of the NCAR Sabreliner in 1968.
Among Ed's pione g achievements was a sampling device made of lead foil that was used in the fifties to obtain the first-ever spectra of precipitation particle sizes to be taken from an airplane. Also during his Chicago years, Ed devised a spinning bowl apparatus that created uniformly sized water droplets useful for instrument calibration.
While at NCAR, Ed's innovation continued. For example, he launched the use of airframe-mounted icing detectors for measuring the amount of liquid water in supercooled states. According to RAF's Paul Spyers-Duran, "Ed's biggest achievement was probably his radome gust probe technique for aircraft." By accurately measuring the dynamic air pressure at five locations across the nose of an aircraft, one could derive winds and turbulence more accurately than with conventional boom-mounted sensors. Ed's careful engineering avoided degradation of the nose-mounted radar's performance, as well. "It became a standard measuring technique, not only at NCAR but at research aviation facilities worldwide," says Paul.
"From the very beginning, Ed was constantly working to improve aircraft measurement techniques by careful calibration and by understanding the distortion around aircraft. He didn't just make measurements--he considered the possible errors, too."
Paul notes that Ed often helped other facilities and groups in adapting his measurement techniques for their needs. In 1993, Ed received the NCAR Technical Support Award for his technical excellence in service at RAF.
"We at RAF wish Ed an enjoyable retirement after 42 years of research and service to the cloud physics community. He is a guy who always looked at the big picture--not only individual instruments, but the whole platform." --BH