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Advanced Research Aircraft To Arrive at NCAR Friday

March 8, 2005

BOULDER—A new aircraft with exceptional research capabilities is scheduled to arrive at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Friday, March 11. Known as HIAPER (High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research), the $81.5 million aircraft will serve the National Science Foundation's environmental research needs for the next several decades. NSF, NCAR's primary sponsor, owns the aircraft. NCAR will maintain and operate HIAPER at its Research Aviation Facility at the Jefferson County Airport in Broomfield.

HIAPER, which is scheduled to begin research missions later in 2005, will provide scientists with insights into the atmosphere and Earth's natural systems. A modified Gulfstream V jet, the aircraft can fly at an altitude of 51,000 feet and has a range of 7,000 miles. It can carry 5,600 pounds of sensors, putting it on the forefront of scientific discovery.

"It's great! We love it!" says James Huning, HIAPER program official at the National Science Foundation (NSF). "HIAPER's range, duration, and high-altitude capability, combined with a significant scientific payload, make it the most advanced aircraft research platform in the United States."

HIAPER (High-performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research). The modified Gulfstream V jet, owned by the National Science Foundation, will be maintained and operated by NCAR's Research Aviation Facility at Jefferson County Airport. (credit: Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation.) Click here for a higher resolution file (1494x1074).

"The arrival of HIAPER ushers in a new era of environmental research opportunity for NCAR and for the entire geosciences community," says Krista Laursen, HIAPER project director at NCAR. "HIAPER will make it possible for scientists to study meteorological processes and environmental phenomena that are continental or nearly global in scale."

HIAPER will collect data at the tops of storms and lower edge of the stratosphere, altitudes out of reach of most research aircraft. The aircraft's range will enable scientists to survey remote ocean regions in a single flight to learn more about interactions between the oceans and atmosphere. Future missions include

  • following pollution plumes across continents and oceans to determine where pollutants originate and how they affect the atmosphere

  • studying hurricanes as they emerge

  • mapping Earth's surface with an array of remote sensors

  • flying through high-forming cirrus clouds to create vertical portraits of their physical and chemical properties

The entire environmental sciences community will have access to the NSF/NCAR aircraft. Researchers will begin taking HIAPER on local science missions based out of Jefferson County Airport in the fall. These early missions will allow the plane's pilots and technicians to familiarize themselves with the plane. The flights will also give scientists an opportunity to test and showcase the plane's capabilities and perform some initial research.

"The best part of HIAPER is the 'H,' which stands for high-performance," says Jennifer Francis, an assistant research professor of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers University. "A research platform like HIAPER makes this an exciting time to be an atmospheric scientist."

In addition to NCAR, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Lockheed Martin, and Garrett Aviation Consulting Group have been involved in the development of HIAPER.

 Related sites on the World Wide Web 

More information about HIAPER


The National Center for Atmospheric Research and UCAR Office of Programs are operated by UCAR under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation and other agencies. Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any of UCAR's sponsors.

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