The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded contracts totaling $52.5 million to Gulfstream Aerospace and Textron Aviation for new aircraft to gather weather and environmental data. “These American-made aircraft will greatly enhance NOAA’s ability to collect data that are vital to forecasters, researchers, and emergency managers,” acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs said.
Of that amount, $40.7 million has been awarded to Gulfstream for a G550 that will support hurricane and tropical storm forecasts, as well as atmospheric research. Additional contracts are expected to be awarded by NOAA for spare parts and airframe modifications to the G550. The twinjet is expected to join NOAA’s fleet in late 2022.
NOAA also awarded Textron Aviation $11.8 million for a Beechcraft King Air 350 cargo and extended range (CER) equipped aircraft with extended range nacelle fuel tanks and a cargo door. When delivered by late spring 2021, the turboprop twin will be configured for remote sensing equipment to measure the water content of snow and soil for flood, river level, and water-supply forecasts.
Both the King Air and G550 will be based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida, where it has a fleet of nine aircraft. “Observations from the high-altitude Gulfstream jet will greatly enhance NOAA’s predictive capabilities for hurricane track and intensification, while the King Air turboprop will provide essential data for many missions, including planning and recovery efforts for coastal and inland flooding,” Jacobs added.