Thursday, 10 May 2012

First Zeppelin test flight – a scientist’s experience

I was super excited and honored to be able to be part of the first Zeppelin test flight 2012. There’s just something overwhelmingly thrilling to see your instrument flight for the first time. To be exact it was the second time for the instrument, NAIS, but first for me. The first test flight with NAIS was made in November. NAIS is part of the nucleation package and it measures the size distribution of the atmospheric ions and total particles. NAIS measures ions from 0.8 nm up to 47 nm and particles from 2 nm up to 47 nm. With NAIS we are hoping to see how the size distribution is changing during a nucleation event and have data to compare with other instruments, which measure different variables.
The scientists are waiting for takeoff.
Like in every proper test flight, the schedule didn’t hold as planned. It took few extra hours to get the Zeppelin ready, but when everything was finally ready, we had to move fast. We were three scientists who got onboard, and waited for the take off seated. I got to sit next to the pilot. I was a bit nervous, after all it was my first Zeppelin flight and I quite didn’t know what to expect – flight wise and instrument wise. The take off was short and smooth. We floated up in the air. 

The NAIS is sampling through the window.
After the take off we were allowed to unbuckle ourselves and go to the instruments. My task was to get the NAIS inlet out of the Zeppelin window, since most of the inlets were suppose to be inside the aircraft during takeoff and landing.  So inlet out and wait for the first data. What a positive surprise it was to see that the instrument worked even better than expected. With a working instrument, I got to enjoy the flight and the view of Bodensee, Alps and the forest under us. I’m certain that this will be a great campaign!  

View from high above.

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