High Science

Some seemingly ordinary aeroplanes ply extraordinary trades. One such jet, the Atmospheric Research Aircraft continues the vital work of the earliest weather pioneers, exploring atmospheric systems and representing the UK in global climate change research, as Robin Evans discovers.

The Atmospheric Research Aircraft (ARA) is the only type-certified British Aerospace 146-301 in existence. Despite external appearances, it is fundamentally a very different aircraft inside compared to the rest of the fleet.

There’s a certain irony to witnessing the aircraft you’ve come to see getting airborne as you arrive at the airfield! “There’s good and bad news,” agrees Professor Guy Gratton, head of airborne science and technology at the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) based at Cranfield University, Bedfordshire. “The bad is the jet has unfortunately just departed, but the good is we can monitor its progress as the flight unfolds.”

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