Flight B760

Hello there, I am Rhiannon one of the ACCACIA PhD students and  will be updating the blog with our activities.

Thursday we flew flight B760 taking off just after 9am local time from Kiruna airport, headed to Longyearbyen on Svalbard via some science!

When we planned the flight Wednesday morning the forecasts showed a change between non existent or thin cloud over the sea ice East of Svalbard and then an area of convective cloud over the open sea. The winds were predicted to be light and flowing off the ice. The images below are an example of what we look at when planning, but we have many, many more forecast images at our disposal!

Planning Plots

Google Earth picture showing our proposed science sectors (yellow) and the sea ice extent (red). Plot showing pressure, cloud and precipitation forecast for Svalbard.

The aims were twofold, firstly to pass the ship RV Lance, which is also part of ACCACIA so we will be able to do inter-comparisons of data from the ship and the aircraft. Then after landing to refuel at Svalbard we were to fly to the east of the island and do a stack of passes going from the ice to the open sea at several heights. This pattern aims to establish the lower atmosphere structure and the transition from sea ice to water and look at the aerosol properties within the boundary layer and above the clouds.

This was my first time on the FAAM 146, and it is a bit different from a normal plane! Many of the seats have been removed to fit in racks of instruments, we have four point harnesses (a bit like a racing driver) for take off and landing and wear headsets to talk to each other. When you take your headphones off you realise why you need them, it is so loud! We do get in flight meals, but they came in a brown paper bag and were much more like a normal lunch than your standard aircraft fare (I very much enjoyed mine and even had a cake!)

There are instruments attached to outside of the plane or which take in air for analysis. This means you have access to almost live data when you are sat on the plane via your laptop connected to the on board network.

with all this data at your disposal you can quickly plot up many interesting things including tephigrams and windspeed plots or look at the mixing ratios of all sorts of chemical species, as well as keeping up with your current position.

I was sat infront of the York GCMS (gas chromatograph – mass spectrometer), which pulls in air and looks for a range of anthropogenic and biogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). I got to help out a little bit too!

On board the plane

My view on board the plane, lots of screen and headsets and tubes!Photo by Rhiannon Davies.

After about an hour and a half of flying we approached the RV Lance ready to pass by in an L-shaped pattern so we pass alongside and behind the ship.

We dropped down lower so we were in the best position for science and made our pass. The pilots spotted the ship first and then after about 5 minutes we passed by.

Passing the RV Lance.

Passing the RV Lance! Photo quickly taken by Jamie Minaeian.

It looks tiny!

We made a vaguely right angled turn as we had to avoid some weather and flew the second part of the pass. Then we climbed back up and approached Svalbard airport.

After a well executed landing on Svalbard, we were able to disembark while the plane refuelled. This was a welcome chance to stretch our legs and say hello to the BAS MASIN plane and its crew. Another research aircraft was in Longyearbyen as well, the Polar-5 from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.

After taking some photos and enjoying the sunshine my fingers got cold so I headed back onto the plane for a packed lunch.


Three research planes all in a row! From left to right, our plane the 146, the Polar-5 and the BAS MASIN Twin Otter. All on the big coldness that is Svalbard. Photo by Rhiannon Davies.

We took off again and headed East across Svalbard, the views were spectacular and the pilots thanked us for the opportunity to fly there! Then we began to fly over the sea ice we transitioned from thicker ice over very thin translucent sheets to newly formed frazil ice. The pilots brought us to the point allocated for the start of our science and we ‘profiled’ down to our minimum safe altitude over the sea ice. We then flew for half an hour before turning round and taking the plane to a higher altitude and flying back over where we had just been, we did several legs in this manner. This allows us to get a profile of the atmosphere over the ice edge. We found a very stable boundary layer over the ice which became more turbulent at low levels over the sea.The instruments had picked up and interesting aerosol/haze layer which we made sure we flew through.The transition to convective cumulus cloud was a bit further south than the models had predicted, this isn’t all bad though as wouldn’t have a job if forecasts were perfect!

Then we turned for Kiruna and flew back home. We landed as the sun was starting to set at about 6pm. A long day for all!


Sunset over Kiruna. Photo by Rhiannon Davies

After a debrief we headed back to our hotels and to the pub for a moose burger!


One thought on “Flight B760

  1. Great to see new flyers on the 146 enjoying themselves onboard seeing the atmosphere in motion for real instead of by staring at a computer screen in an office. Long live ACCACIA!

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