Small Project Support

Project Support at Research Aviation Facility, Airborne Project Office

The primary function of the RAF is to deploy and operate the NSF/NCAR research aircraft in support of the NSF approved scientific projects. The RAF Airborne Project Office (APO) develops schedules, manages the upload of user equipment on the airplane and provides basic support for the RAF instrumentation and personnel.

In parallel with these tasks on small projects, RAF may be able to coordinate deployment activities and to accommodate certain needs of the participating non-RAF investigators as well. RAF does not have the budget and can not be responsible for support beyond what is normally needed for airplane operations. If extended support is required for a field project then other EOL facilities should be involved. This document will help the investigators understand the roles of the RAF APO and other available EOL facilities such as the Project Management Office (PMO) and Data Management & Services (DMS) and choose the proper way to support their projects.

Small projects for which RAF APO can provide the sufficient level of support, are projects that involve RAF aircraft deployment within the United States or an easy-to-operate international location; if the project does not involve significant multi-agency coordination; and does not require real time mission guidance, advanced data products, such as modeling or forecasting, or data and field catalog support.

Function RAF APO will support Outside RAF APO scope Comment
Lab space at field site: RAF requires some lab space for routine instrument maintenance (usually < 200 square feet). APO will try to locate lab space during site surveys and secure space for project investigators. The extra space can be secured if the extra cost to the RAF is minimal, or on a cost-sharing basis with investigators.

Special lab requirements such as wet labs, hazardous material operations, very large lab space, optical labs, etc. are outside the scope of a "small" project. RAF does not have the capability to organize such services or the budget to pay for these expenses. Such services are usually part of the individual research proposals and are funded by the NSF separately.

RAF APO and EOL PMO are able to inquire and make advanced arrangements for such special lab needs in advance. If the extra funding is needed, PMO has the ability to apply for such funding from the NSF. If the investigators' proposals include such funding already, the roles of the APO and PMO will be limited to making arrangements with on-site organizations, leaving the payment to the investigators.

Storage: RAF requires storage space on the field site for the aircraft support. Some of this storage will be in the immediate vicinity of the airplane and used for the ground support equipment. Often this space is in sea containers but some time hangar space can be secured. The RAF is willing to share any extra available space if project investigators let APO know what they need and if extra cost to RAF is minimal, or on cost-sharing basis with investigators.

The RAF does not generally procure special storage facilities for large volumes of cargo. Storage near the airplane is primarily for the airplane support equipment.

If the investigators have large shipments for field support, they need to remember to make arrangements for storage or ask APO and PMO for support. PMO can make arrangements to rent storage space provided the investigators make an early request that will allow the PMO to secure the funding for these activities.

Shipping: RAF will ship airplane supplies, parts and support equipment from RMMA Airport. If the investigator equipment is located in RMMA at the time of shipment, RAF APO can coordinate the shipping of it. RAF will share any knowledge of agents, customs etc. that are collected during site surveys.

The NSF chosen model for funding shipping is to fund individual teams for their shipping needs. Therefore, investigators are responsible for preparing their shipments and arranging the delivery of their equipment to field sites. RAF can not budget for shipping costs for investigators' equipment.

Only the most essential investigators' spares can be carried on the EOL airplane to the field site, provided space is available. The amount of cargo on the plane is dependent on the particular project payload and can be very limited. For complex overseas projects or for large amounts of cargo, PMO may be able to organize coordinated shipments, in which case investigators will be advised of the venues to use. Responsibility for the cost of shipping typically still lies with the individual investigators.

Rental cars: RAF and PMO can only make these arrangements for the NCAR personnel.

Non-NCAR investigators are responsible for budgets and arrangements for their rental car needs.

RAF and PMO can help arrange group car rental rates or shuttles on a case by case basis as needed.

Hotel: RAF APO or PMO will arrange for group block rates at hotels. Typically, investigators will call in to make their own reservations under the group rate but PMO may also be able to make reservations for the investigators provided we know the number of project participants and accurate dates of travel.

Investigators are responsible for budgets for their housing expenses. NSF typically will not fund room blocks directly, and room and board are part of each team's travel budget. EOL will only organize pre-paid blocks of rooms when a contract with a hotel is the only way to ensure room availability.

APO and PMO will investigate the housing situation during site surveys and make the information available to all project participants. EOL normally uses hotels for field projects and does not investigate apartment or condo rentals unless there are no suitable hotel options. Project participants are welcome to investigate such options themselves as desired.

Travel: APO can only make these arrangements for the NCAR personnel. Typically APO makes these arrangements only for RAF personnel.

Non-NCAR investigators are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. NCAR investigators who want to arrange their travel with RAF should coordinate with the APO; otherwise they can use their own division administrators for this.

Ferrying people on board research aircraft is not permitted. Transit to/from a field site on the RAF airplane is limited to instrument operators in pursuit of en route scientific objectives.

Data center: RAF APO in collaboration with DMS will provide a basic data center on small projects. This includes a LAN, some table space, a printer, a local server to make flight data available to the investigators, and an outside internet connection suitable for E-mail and other basic needs.

Larger scale needs such as Operations Planning and Support Center with high-speed internet access; data services; project web site; forecast support; and advanced project planning support should be identified at the time of the Facility Request and will be supported by the EOL PMO and DMS.

The investigators are asked to evaluate the data and project planning support needs. If the project is targeting severe weather or other real time mission guidance objectives, these should be identified in advance, allowing the PMO and DMS to plan ahead with the supplemental funding application in support of the project.

Facilities coordination: RAF APO will coordinate the RAF effort with other facilities. RAF pilots will coordinate concurrent flights with the pilots of another simultaneously deployed airplane, if needed.

RAF APO does not organize installation, deployment, communication with and management of non-RAF facilities. If such services are required, for example installation and coordination with ground sites, radars, or other agency aircraft, PMO and DMS must be involved.

Multi-platform, multiple site or multiple agency involvement should be identified at the time of the Facility Request. This allows EOL to properly plan facility involvement and apply for sufficient funding to provide adequate project support.

Payload modifications: Contact RAF APO to discuss possible options if you are considering instrument removals/additions during a field deployment because changes to the payload are generally not allowed in the field.

Instrument racks are heavy and awkward. RAF will not detach or remove instrument racks in the field due to safety considerations and to avoid equipment or aircraft damage and payload certification violations.

Any equipment that might require maintenance in the field needs to be removable from the racks.

Safety and conformity review: All user equipment will be examined by the RAF staff for conformity with the materials and safety standards listed in the RAF bulletins. Please refer to the GV Investigator Handbook and the C-130 Investigator Handbook for information on compliance requirements.


RAF will manufacture the necessary hardware to interface user equipment with the aircraft. RAF does not have the resources to make major modifications to the user equipment to be compliant with the aircraft requirements. RAF can provide minor hardware such as fasteners, clamps, wire and minor sheet metal parts. For more substantial mods RAF will assist in designing the changes to the equipment but implementing them is the responsibility of the investigators.

Contact RAF prior to sending your equipment for installation to make sure it is suitable for aircraft operations.

Data formats: RAF produces data in netCDF format. RAF provides the necessary software tools to view and export data into ASCII tables. Depending on the project needs EOL DMS may be able to provide data conversion, merging and archival services.     Data handling policies should be discussed prior to field deployment. If the investigators intend to host the data at the EOL data services facility, these plans need to be discussed with EOL DMS in advance to identify the required resources and allow the EOL to plan for support accordingly.

Last updated: November 28, 2012