A European airborne research initiative that brings together more than 30 instrumented aircraft operated by 24 institutions and companies has identified the need for a modified Airbus A400M or Lockheed Martin C-130 for environmental and geosciences work.

A European Commission report setting out a roadmap for research infrastructures details the proposal, which would cost about €100 million ($126 million) to implement and €2 million a year to operate. The report describes the need for a heavy-payload, long-endurance tropospheric aircraft to complete the European Fleet for Airborne Research (EUFAR) to enable scientists to conduct climate studies in crucial polar, oceanic and remote continental regions.

"European research agencies operate more than 30 aircraft with sampling speeds of 30m/s [6,740ft/min] to 200m/s and payload capabilities from 80kg (175lb) to 4,500kg and a maximum practical endurance of 5h," says the report.

Because NASA has already used a C-130 for research, the necessary structural modifications are known and an aircraft could be deployed in a year, the report says, whereas the A400M, which is still in development, would not be available before 2009.

Acquisition and implementation cost is estimated at €50 million for the C-130 and €100 million for the A400M. Operating cost for either would be about €2 million a year and it would be used for 25 years or about 15,000 flight hours.

Source: Flight International