To convert an aircraft to provide the UK Met Office and Government with an airborne source of real-time data in the event of a volcanic eruption that could impinge upon UK airspace. The data is used to validate Met Office atmospheric models and open airspace as soon as possible.
Cranfield Aerospace were responsible for the design and installation of an extensive range of scientific equipment into a Cessna 421C aircraft. This type was chosen to provide a comfortable pressurised working environment, whilst its reciprocating engines are more tolerant of flight within a high volcanic ash concentration. A series of external probes and intakes were fitted to the aircraft in order to provide samples for real-time physical and chemical analysis, linked to cabin racks populated with analysis and processing equipment. The output can then be sent to the Met Office control centre via a satcom system installed in the same conversion programme. As well as the design of the installations, Cranfield Aerospace carried out all the analysis, ground and flight testing necessary to support the modifications under its EASA Part 21J design approval. CAe are also the prime contractor for providing the flying services associated with this aircraft, including the requirement to respond at short notice to any volcanic eruption event of concern.