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Atmospher Sci & Global Chg
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November 2008

Tomlinson to Lead National Research Aircraft Committee

Getting more mileage from "frequent fliers"

Government agencies use research aircraft for everything from hunting hurricanes to measuring Arctic sea ice shrinkage. Since 1997, a national coordinating group has been making it easier to combine and share these resources for greater efficiency and cost savings. In October, Jason Tomlinson, a scientist from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was appointed the new leader for this group, known as the Interagency Coordinating Committee for Airborne Geosciences Research and Application.

The committee works to increase the effective use of the Federal airborne fleet for geoscience research, including national and international field campaigns. The organization consists of federal agencies that sponsor aircraft and related instruments for geoscience research. Members include the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Office of Naval Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the United States Geological Survey.

Part of the group's work is "show and tell," Tomlinson said. Members take pride in touting their available aircraft resources and working on ways to improve collaboration. One of the group's more ambitious projects is standardizing the ways analytical instruments are mounted inside and on the wings of a research aircraft. That way, instruments like air samplers can be used interchangeably among different aircraft, avoiding costs and time to resize or redesign them. Members also are creating a common data format for collecting and displaying airborne measurements like temperature, humidity, and GPS coordinates.

Before his appointment as committee chair, Tomlinson created a password-protected, web-based database of member agencies' research aircraft. The database is hosted on the website of DOE's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program, one of the nation's most established climate science programs. Tomlinson also serves as the operation lead for the ARM Climate Research Facility's Aerial Vehicles Program.

As committee chair, Tomlinson succeeds Colonel Andrew Roberts, NASA's director of airborne science. Tomlinson looks forward to working with the group on unmanned aerial research vehicles and making stronger connections with a similar organization in Europe. DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research supports Tomlinson in his role as committee chair.

John Hubbe, also a PNNL scientist, serves on the committee representing the Gulfstream-1 aircraft, which DOE uses for atmospheric science research.

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