Image courtesy of Robert Wood

From: Rhea George
Arica, Chile, October 21, 2008

Aboard the C-130 airplane

Hello from Arica!

Today I 'directed' a plane!

I arrived in Arica a week ago for the VOCALS field campaign. Every day since has been full of excitement, intensity, and fun. Most days I spend on the ground, using computer programs and forecast data to help figure out what clouds and winds will be doing when the C-130 research aircraft flies.

Today at 3am the C-130 plane took off for its second mission in Arica. This time I was on it! I watched Professor Paquita Zuidema’s instrument, which measures the liquid water present in a cloud or air the plane is flying through. The instrument can get too hot, so I would check it periodically for signs of overheating.

When I wasn’t doing that, I sat in the cockpit with the pilots and Professor Robert Wood, the “mission scientist” of this flight. The mission scientist talks to both the pilots and the rest of the scientists aboard through headsets about where the plane is and where it is going throughout the 9 hours of flying. Rob taught me some of the rules, and then let me play his role for awhile! I asked the pilots to fly at various heights above the ocean corresponding to locations below the clouds, in the clouds, and above the clouds, so the instruments aboard the plane could make measurements in these three regions. I gave the scientists 2 minute warnings when the plane was changing its height so they could adjust their instruments. I felt very lucky and thrilled to get to try this!


Postcards from the Field: Climate Science from the Southeast Pacific

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