NOAA orders additional Gulfstream ‘hurricane chaser’
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has placed an order with Gulfstream for a Gulfstream G550 corporate jet. And, once it’s completed, the aircraft is expected to join NOAA’s fleet of hurricane-chasing aircraft based at Lakeland Airport, Florida.
NOAA says that the total cost for the aircraft, including the basic airframe and the additional equipment needed, will be $40.7 million. The Administration is expecting to award additional contracts for the outfitting of the aircraft in the near future.
“Gulfstream has been providing aircraft to the U.S. government for more than 50 years,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “We are proud to continue the partnership with NOAA’s G550. Our aircraft platforms provide government and military customers with the flexibility, range and altitude capabilities tha are perfect for demanding missions.”
NOAA already operates a 1994-build Gulfstream IV. It flies over developing storms to measure and track the directions they are travelling, then sends the data back to NOAA to be analysed.
David L. Hall, public affairs officer at NOAA, says that the G550 will be outfitted with similar equipment as the Gulfstream IV, but the additional range and payload capabilities of the G550 will allow the aircraft to stay in the air for longer.
“The final instrumentation configuration for the G550 has not been determined. As appropriate, the G550 will be outfitted with similar or identical systems and instruments as other NOAA aircraft,” said Hall.
Additional configuration of the Gulfstream IV includes a GPS dropwindsonde , which is dropped from the bottom of the aircraft to measure humidity, temperature and pressure, as well as GPS Doppler frequency shifts as it travels downwards.
However, the biggest modification is in the rear fuselage, which has been extended to include a doppler radar, which looks at the structure of a storm to analyse its intensity.
At the same time as placing the G550 order, NOAA also placed an order for a King Air 350 CER, which is due to be in service in 2021.
“These American-made aircraft will greatly enhance NOAA’s ability to collect data that are vital to forecasters, researchers, and emergency managers,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “Observations from the high-altitude Gulfstream jet will greatly enhance NOAA’s predictive capabilities for hurricane track and intensification, while the King Air turboprop will provide essential data for many missions, including planning and recovery efforts for coastal and inland flooding.”
Once delivered, the G550 and King Air will join a nine-strong NOAA fleet based at Lakeland.
As well as the Gulfstream IV, NOAA currently operates four Twin Otters, two Lockheed Orions, one Aero Commander, and one King Air 350 CER.
“NOAA’s Gulfstream IV (N49RF) will remain in service and continue to fulfil its role as an environmental data-gathering platform.” Said Hall.