RIME Participants:

Thanks to all for your patience regarding the long-promised RIME Implementation Plan that was to be the outcome of the RIME Implementation Workshop held in Boulder last February. As you may recall, we assembled five groups to discuss the instrumentation, logistical requirements and timeline for the following five categories: RIME Supersite, Airborne Studies, Modeling, Remote Sensing from Space, and Surface-Based Studies. It is the Airborne Studies program that is responsible for the long delay and is the topic we wish to discuss.

Many of you are aware that discussions have been ongoing regarding the use of the NCAR C-130 for Antarctic studies as part of RIME since February of 2001. At the Workshop, it was proposed that we link the field work using the NCAR C-130 with the ANTCI program (also to use the C-130 for air chemistry studies out of McMurdo) during the November-December 2005 period, know as Pre-RIME. At least four proposals to use the NCAR C-130 were submitted to NSF for consideration this past June. Part of the proposal review process includes a feasibility analysis of using the NCAR C-130 in Antarctica. A thorough evaluation of the logistical requirements to support the proposed Pre-RIME research was conducted by NCAR/ATD staff. The final analysis is as follows:

"In the end we nevertheless classify the Pre-RIME requests for C-130 support as 'not feasible' at present. The basis for this is that we consider McMurdo to be an airport without adequate alternate landing options for operation of the wheeled NCAR/NSF C-130. The aircraft is not equipped to land at McMurdo under conditions of limited visibility, and this poses unacceptable risks in the case of adverse weather which was not forecast."

This issue of an alternate landing option has been with us since the beginning, so the final decision was not unexpected. We wish to thank the many people at ATD who have been assisting us through each step of the process.

This brings us back to the beginning in terms of airborne support. We view the instrumented airborne platform as essential to a successful RIME effort. Although our attempts to get the NCAR C-130 allocated for RIME were not successful, we have at least stirred the pot a bit and recently there have been discussions regarding airborne platforms for Antarctic research. In particular, preliminary discussions have been held between NSF representatives and ATD staff regarding refurbishing a surplus ski-equipped C-130 platform for geophysical studies in Antarctica. Scott Borg, Erick Chiang and others from NSF were in Boulder on October 23-24 to discuss options with ATD staff. There are plans for an upcoming community workshop to discuss this in more detail. From the RIME perspective, this development is welcome. The only downside is that the timescale for acquiring, refurbishing and instrumenting a C-130 for geophysical studies is likely five-plus years out. This pushes the time frame for RIME.

Two other options worth pursuing are Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAVs) and configuring a Twin Otter for airborne research. UAVs were discussed at the Workshop last February and were included as a component of at least two proposals submitted in June. It seems logical that such an approach is useful in the Antarctic. The Twin Otter possibilities are more complex. The range of options includes simply installing a PC-based data logger to record state parameters measured by the Twin Otter's basic suite of instruments to installation of user-supplied sensors on the Twin Otter with a comprehensive data acquisition system. We will continue to inquire regarding possibilities with the Twin Otters. It is important to note that we do not envisage the Twin Otter as an alternative to the Polar C-130 platform, which if implemented is clearly the long-term solution. The Twin Otter option will be a short-term, relatively inexpensive option that can be made available within a timeframe appropriate for RIME.

We welcome comments and opinions as to where we should be headed with the aircraft operations and RIME.


David H. Bromwich and Thomas R. Parish
RIME Scientific Coordinators