The last two days have been spent agonizing over whether to extend the campaign or not. I’ll be very honest and say that the first two weeks have been disappointing. It is very challenging to watch your window of opportunity grow smaller and smaller and repeatedly have forecasts trend towards higher and higher winds. With the support of many groups, including the funding managers at DOE, the Sandia and AMF-3 operations teams, ENI and the NOC camp we’re staying in, Delta Leasing from whom we are renting the trucks, and even Alaska Airlines and United airlines who allowed us to change tickets without fees (ok, maybe that last part had something to do with the winter storm that’s currently bearing down on Colorado…), we have decided to extend the campaign by a couple of days. The forecast continues to look very good for flights on Saturday and Sunday, with winds expected to drop down into the 15 mph range! Tevis, Doug and I will stay here and get in as many flights as we can over the two and a half day period, while Phillip will head back to Colorado tomorrow to ensure that he does not get too far behind on his class work.
To add to the excitement, it sounds as though Sandia National Laboratories will also be flying one of their tethered balloon systems for a few days while the winds are down. This will only strengthen the overall dataset and should provide some good points for comparison of different sensors and techniques! Today we spent much of the day getting as many things in order as possible. This includes installing some of the instrumentation on the Pilatus, getting the wings on the plane, and “cold-soaking” everything out in the hangar. This ensures that the plane and sensors don’t go through shock when transitioning from the warm environment in the AMF-3 and heated spaces to the cold of the atmosphere. After a good day of work, it seems like we are ready to go for flights early tomorrow morning! Hopefully the wind will continue to come down and provide us with the weather necessary to make it all happen. I can say that we, as a team, are very excited to finally have a chance to do what we came here for!