A unique-looking BAe 146 is set to join the more traditional passenger- and freight-carrying family.

The first BAe 146 manufactured is being re-configured into the Atmospheric Research Aircraft (ARA). It is close to completion after a major conversion programme by the firm's Regional Aircraft division.

The aircraft is to be used under a 10-year contract on behalf of the customer, the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurement (FAAM).

FAAM has been established as a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Centre for Atmospheric Science, and is a partnership between the Joint Infrastructure Fund (JIF) Aircraft Consortium (representing aircraft users), NERC and the UK's Meteorological Office.

ARA is going to be an important element in the UK's atmospheric research community's ability to assess information on global warming, pollution levels, atmospheric radiation and environmental risks and hazards. The majority of flying will be in UK airspace, although a significant amount of global research will be conducted.

Aircraft equipment includes: additional fuel tanks for range enhancement; external radiometer blisters on the front port fuselage and the rear fuselage; two LIDAR laser apertures in the upper and lower rear fuselage; two wing pylons each supporting up to four scientific equipment canisters; air sampling and sensing equipment in the upper forward fuselage; various avionic upgrade programmes; and the capability for operations up to 35,000ft (10,600m).

The customised configuration is continued inside the aircraft, which has been modified to house up to 18 scientific crew and a mission scientist. Normal crew complement is likely to be around 10. These operating personnel will monitor and observe the rack-mounted instruments.

Source: Flight Daily News