My boss came up into the control tower the other day and said to me ‘The METMAN is coming in for a month at the end of February, we should be able to get fam flights’.
This got me extremely excited, in fact I am yet to calm down! First though, let me explain to you what ‘The METMAN’ is. The METMAN is an airplane. It’s a BAe 146 that is owned by BAe Systems and operated by Directflight. It is a result of a collaboration between the Met Office and the Natural Environment Research Council and it is established as part of the National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences.
What does this mean? Basically it’s an atmospheric research aircraft. It has lots of scientific equipment stuck to different parts of it, it goes flying, takes lots of measurements, and then scientists have loads of fun trying to make sense of it all.
So the next question is, what is a fam flight? A fam (or familiarisation) flight is a chance for people in air traffic to see what it’s all like from the pilots perspective. We get the opportunity every once in a while to sit in the jump seat in the cockpit. We get to ask questions and see the processes that go on inside. It’s a great opportunity and makes life easier both for us and the pilots in the long run. If we know what each other are going through at different stages we can time things like giving airways clearances accordingly.
What’s she doing in Exeter then? She’s usually based up in Cranfield but goes on voyages all over the planet. They’re coming down to Exeter this time to look at some cloud physics. More specifically they’re looking at stratocumulus clouds.
They want to get a better understanding of how these clouds form over the ocean and then their evolution. To me, it’s not the most exciting of clouds to be studying but who knows., I might learn something new about them.
Interestingly the aircraft also has permission to fly pretty damn low. 25ft ASL (above surface level) in fact. Usually over the oceans. It would be pretty exciting if they were to do that but there’s probably some ‘we’re not responsible for your possible death’ paperwork!
Anyway, if I do get the chance to fly, I’ll be sure to let you all know how it goes!