The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded contracts for the purchase of two new aircraft on Monday. One will be a modified Gulfstream G550, which NOAA says will be used for missions including hurricane and tropical storm forecasts and atmospheric research. The second addition will be a Beechcraft King Air 350 CER turboprop. According to NOAA, the King Air will be outfitted with remote sensing equipment to gather data used in flood, river level and water supply forecasts. It will also be utilized in coastal mapping and aerial damage survey missions.
“These American-made aircraft will greatly enhance NOAA’s ability to collect data that are vital to forecasters, researchers, and emergency managers,” said acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs. “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.”
Delivery of the $40.7 million G550 is expected in 2022. The King Air 350 CER contract came in at $11.8 million with the aircraft scheduled to enter service in spring 2021. Both aircraft will be based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida, from which the agency currently operates a fleet of nine aircraft modified for environmental data-gathering.