An ATR 42 twin-turboprop airliner has been fitted with a suite of radar and laser spectrometry sensors to conduct meteorological research on African monsoons.

The Safire project is led by France's meteorological office, Meteo, and the ATR is being converted by EADS Sogerma in Bordeaux. The sensors are located on top of and underneath the aircraft's fuselage and on underwing pylons.

"We need four to five months to put in the consoles for the internal equipment," says Marc Pontaud, head of Meteo's Safire project. "Hopefully they will be ready [for research] in September."

Certification flights are expected to take place at the French air force base at Francazal, 3km (2 miles) from Blangnac, from June. The ATR 42 will replace Meteo's Fairchild Merlin IV A.

For the joint UK/French monsoon research, a Falcon 20 is also being converted by Dassault Aviation for Meteo, and the UK Met Office's BAe 146 will aid the work.

Source: Flight International