Friday 5. May 2017

Ice survey plane on public display at Ísafjörður airport

The American Twin-Otter aeroplane currently flying research trips out of Ísafjörður has already grabbed the attention of many people in town. The team of American researchers have based their aircraft at Ísafjörður Airport in recent weeks and will stay for a total of four weeks. On Monday 8th May, an Icelandic Coastguard plane will arrive as well, for its own annual ice research expedition. The Coastguard has been assisting the American researchers since arriving in Iceland.

To celebrate the fact that both planes will be in Ísafjörður, the public are invited to pay them a visit at the airport on Monday from 18.00 (after the passenger flight to Reykjavík has left) and find out first-hand about the planes and what they are up to.

The two planes are very different, and the same can be said about their current projects, though both are surveying sea ice. The Twin-Otter belongs to the Naval Postgraduate School in the USA and is equipped with wide-ranging monitoring equipment which measures the energy exchange between the sea and the air at the ice edge. The flow of kinetic energy, the pressure of wind on the surface, the flow of heat energy, the flow of moisture and of radiation from the sun and the land are all measured on the expedition. As well as this, airborne particles are also measured and their impact on visibility assessed. The aeroplane is also fitted with cameras, both normal cameras and infrared cameras, which photograph the surface of the ice every second. Data of this type are not widely available and will therefore be of significant help in creating forecasts and in many research projects connected to climate and sea ice. To collect the data, the plane must fly very low. The Twin-Otter flies at a mere 30 meters above the sea/ice and, according to the researchers, has even been able to spot polar bear footprints from the air. The American research team has a base set up at the University Centre of the Westfjords and at Ísafjörður Airport for four weeks.

The Icelandic Coastguard’s Dash 8 aeroplane is much bigger and is involved in a great variety of Coastguard projects all year round. One of these projects is regularly measuring the extent of sea ice in Iceland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); especially in the Denmark Strait. It is important to warn the fishing fleet about icebergs on their routes. Comparable measurements over many years can also provide information useful in the creation of forecasts and climate change assessments. The Coastguard plane will stop for this one day only in Ísafjörður.

The crews of the two planes will be at Ísafjörður Airport around 17.30. After the departure of the passenger service at 18.00, several short introductory speeches will take place while the two planes are arranged in front of the airport terminal. At the end of these welcomes, those interested will have the chance to go out to the planes and find out more from the crews about them and their work. Everyone is welcome, young and old, aspiring aviators and, not least, techies—as the planes are bursting with sophisticated equipment.

The Twin Otter plane that is used by the American research team based in Ísafjörður.
The Twin Otter plane that is used by the American research team based in Ísafjörður.
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