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BAE Systems research aircraft in Canadian wildfires study to improve air pollution forecasts


A BAE Systems research aircraft is helping scientists analyse air pollution in the northern hemisphere caused by wildfires in Canada, in a bid to improve pollution forecasts.

The BAe 146 Atmospheric Research Aircraft (ARA) is on a three-week mission to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada where it is carrying a team of researchers who will use its on-board equipment to measure gases and particles emitted by wildfires. During the mission the BAe 146 ARA will be flown daily along the eastern coast of Canada chasing plumes of wildfire pollution

These emissions are transported across the Atlantic Ocean and may affect air quality in the UK and Europe. By helping researchers better understand how the chemicals from these wildfires disperse in the air as they are transported, this mission will help estimate the role of North American forest fires on air pollution in Europe and improve forecasting.

Such naturally occurring wildfires sparked by dry, hot summer conditions are likely to become more frequent amid changing climates and have a greater impact on air quality around the world.

The BORTAS scientific campaign (impact of boreal forest fires on tropospheric oxidants over the Atlantic using aircraft and satellites), consists of a team of scientists led by the University of Edinburgh and in collaboration with the Universities of York and Leeds and Dalhousie University in Canada. It is supported by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Owned by BAE Systems and converted by BAE Systems Regional Aircraft into one of the foremost atmospheric research aircraft in the world, the BAe 146 ARA is a vital tool in the study of weather patterns, climate change and global warming, flying some 500 science hours a year.

The BAe 146 ARA is operated by Directflight in the UK under subcontract to BAE Systems while the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) manages the scientific tasking on behalf of NERC and the UK Met Office.

NERC and the Met Office task the aircraft largely on the basis of bids made by Universities or specialist departments of the Met Office, and arrange the necessary funding. FAAM implements the programme, arranging with BAE Systems Regional Aircraft the installation of new or different scientific equipment as demanded by each mission.

In addition to approving and engineering the role-change equipment required for BORTAS and all other missions, BAE Systems also is heavily involved with the scientific community in working out how to install ground-breaking new instrumentation on to the aircraft. For the BORTAS mission, a chemical ionisation mass spectrometer will fly on the aircraft and will measure, in particular, hydrocarbons, which are an important tracer for biomass burning.


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