A Day in the Life of a CLEX Researcher
Ever want to know what it's like being a researcher during an aircraft field experiment? The following is an approximate schedule of daily CLEX activities on combined CLEX/C3VP flight days.
Arrive at NRC. Dave Hudak and Walter Strapp and Mengistu are usually there by then.
Look at forecasts, help Dave make decision on what looks like best area to fly along Cloudsat track (usually northern part).
Chief pilot arrives (along with Kevin, etc.) for 8 a.m. C3VP briefing
This is where everyone usually chimes in on how everything looks. Walter usually suggests a target location (lat., long.) and John (chief pilot) will give his two cents about flight restrictions in that area (and will suggest a change if needed).
Instrument update at this time as well.
CLEX at this point will chime in about how it looks for CLEX focused studies during this C3VP mission. If close to YOW (Ottawa's airport), we can extend for up to 2 hours (but will have to burn off at least one hour before landing). If we donít add extra, we can fly for one hour studying our clouds or just head back home after C3VP duties.
This is when Dave Hudak has his morning briefing with CARE and King Radar folks. He gives an overview of the weather that they can follow along with via video conferencing software (very nice!). Then he says if there will be any chance of coordinated CARE overpasses (usually only if in the area).
CARE then decides if they want to run anything on their own.
After this, Walter writes up a takeoff schedule and posts it (aircraft out of hangar, crew on board, wheels up, overpass time and location).
Paul DeMott or Matt need to know target cloud temps (for CFDC operating info)
After this, we wait around until we are able to be escorted onto the Convair (need to get an additional runway security badge and be escorted by an NRC employee (pilot, Mengistu, etc.)
During this time, a CLEX scientist sends out the AM update and gives details about the weather, whether or not CLEX plans to use add-on time, etc. that will be emailed to everyone and posted on the website.
You may want to use this time to grab a lunch or snack to bring on the plane, since flights take place during the lunch hour (usually from ~11:00 AM to ~3:30 PM).
Once on the Convair all crew and techs are prepping for takeoff. Instruments are checked (CFDC is iced up if time allows). There are a couple of critical power shifts that need to be passed before we are on flying power.
We all have quick briefing with pilot and passengers just before takeoff.
The flight scientist (usually Dave) sits in the flight scientist seat.
The flight scientist seat has a computer in front of it that can view flight trakes, Ka-bend radar profiles, probe data (LWC, IWC, 2DC, 2DP, PCASP, etc.)
At briefing it is determined who talks to pilots (usually flight scientists). On C3VP days, Dave talks to pilot and the CLEX scientist switches with Dave for CLEX part and then back to Dave for flight home.
After we land, there is usually a post-flight briefing. We discuss what went wrong, what went right, what needs to be done to the instruments/aircraft to prepare for the next flight, etc.
This is usually the time that CLEX must make a preliminary forecast and decide whether or not to fly a solo CLEX mission the next day. If there is a possibility of a solo CLEX flight, then there will be another 8:00 AM weather briefing the next day, and the above schedule will repeat.
Also, this is when a CLEX scientist sends out the PM update and gives details about the flight, weather, etc. to be shared with everyone and posted on the website.
Notes about the Convair-580 and in-flight activities
There is storage for backpacks, jackets, etc. on aircraft. Usually a thicker jacket is needed for walk to Convair with only a long sleeve shirt needed for flight times (plenty of warm computers on board).
The intercom system is a series of heavy headphones. There are switches you press to enable talk to just back set crew or pilots and crew (only flight scientist is supposed to talk to pilots unless the pilots requests info from someone else). You press in a toggle button to talk. You can hear everything on the headphones including pilot talk and a lot of ATC talk (even stuff not related to Convair).
Most back area conversations take place over headphones. Face-to-face speaking is done without headphones.
Every seat has an intercom headset. You canít walk far from your seat with headphones on.
Need to be seat belted on takeoff and landing (or when we hit heavy turbulence).
Most useful displays are the radar (Ka and Mengistuís X-band), flight track and Kevinís lidar (just behind flight scientist seat).
Helps to bring a snack and some water on the flights. They can get you queezy.
There has usually been an open seat available (after CLEX seat taken) that they will fly a tech for training in if no other takers.
The C3VP flights target the Cloudsat ground track. They usually arrive 30 minutes before overpass and fly back and forth along track looking for better targets to target lat. A-Train overpass. Early looks indicate John is almost dead on for Convair/Cloudsat lineup.
After overpass, they will play around in the area (vertical soundings, race tracks, etc.) for about an hour. At this point, we would begin post-C3VP Ė CLEX ops (switch seats with Dave).
Early tries with ground-to-air talking with CARE were not good (bad radio on Convair). Sat. phone has worked well, but flight scientist has to leave his seat to use it.
The satellite modem usually works well and can download CIRA satellite images and a Canadian radar image (like US Nexrad image). We will try to make our sat. images smaller (takes 2 minutes to download right now).
We tested a new radio on this flight that worked really well (could hear guy on ground almost 80 miles away!) that will be integrated to CARE/Convair for second IOP.
Kevinís lidar works best when it is 3Kft from cloud; can work down to 500 ft. above/below cloud. He can only run the downward looking lidar when above 12 Kft (ATC rules) no matter what is below. Upward lidar is usually turned on when we are above cloud. The lidar is very useful for identifying aerosol layers and liquid water layers.