The aim of the short course is to provide early career scientists with the understanding of how and why research flights are performed.

This experience will result in the participants gaining the capability to design instruments, and to plan flights and projects for future missions. This will help keep FAAM, a central component of NERC’s national capability, in the forefront of future research leaders’ minds when planning future projects.

This course, designed specifically for the UK context, will give early career scientists an opportunity to experience the broader scientific aspects (instrument design and development, flight planning, participating in a flight, and performing the post-­flight analysis and interpretation) needed to carry out such research. It will also provide early career scientists with a rounded understanding of the operational constraints, and so serve as an excellent basis for the preparation of research proposals.

At a glance

Course structure

The core of the short course will be a 4-­5 day intensive period at Cranfield University (CU). The students will work principally in groups with some teaching and close oversight of project work. In this period, approximately equal times will be allocated to: (a) instrument operation and design; (b) flight planning; (c) research flight experience (based on a flight planned by the participants); (d) post-­flight data analysis including instrumental work-­up and basic analysis.

What you will learn

  • Understanding of design, installation and operation of aircraft instruments
  • Ability to plan research flights
  • Implementation and experience of a research flight in mission scientist or instrument specialist roles
  • Post-­flight analysis of measurements, including identification of lessons learned
  • Presentation of results

Core content

The overall course involves a 1 day experience flight and a 4 day residential course and covers:

(a) Experience flight. 

The students will gain the experience of a real research flight from the UK a few weeks before the main residential course. In addition to the flight itself, the participants will receive briefings about (a) the project that this flight contributes to;; (b) the aims of the flight and the rationale for the flight plans;; and (c) a post-­flight debrief. The participants will be kept informed about progress with the analysis of the results so they can start the main course with a good overview of the whole procedure.

(b) Instrument operation and design. 

Experts from FAAM and CAIET will explain the operational principles of gas phase and particle instruments, the challenges associated installing and operating them on an aircraft, and the procedure for providing science quality measurements of atmospheric quantities. Small group sessions will be used for preparing plans for new instruments to be installed on the BAe-­146. 

(c) Flight planning. 

Course participants will learn about meeting the scientific aims of a flight while staying within the operational constraints of the aircraft, weather, staff limitations, etc. The goal of the small group sessions will be to prepare flight plans for possible flights to be flown later in the week. The students will select the science aims for the planned flights. Possible topics include urban emissions (e.g. London, Birmingham, or east coast outflow), and uplift of air from the polluted boundary layer. 

(d) Research flight experience. 

A flight plan prepared in (b) will be selected and a real flight will be made (Wed/Thurs). The participants will take part in the flight and act as mission scientists and instrument operators. The aim is to provide a full understanding of the advantages and real-­world constraints of using atmospheric research aircraft.

(e) Post-­flight analysis. 

Students will learn about data work-­up into science-­quality measurements, including calibration, assessment of instrument performance and measurement uncertainties. The measurements will be analysed using the standard tools employed by FAAM and aircraft scientists such as Google Earth, NAME back-­trajectories and meteorological analyses. The students will prepare a flight report. 

Who should attend

This course will provide structured training for both instrumental scientists and modellers to give a good overview of the whole research flight process from planning to presentation of results. In particular, it will train you so that you can act as mission scientists in future flights either in an assistant role or as the main scientist (for PDRAs). A significant, longer-­term benefit will be that you will be well placed to prepare proposals for new instruments and/or research projects involving the BAe-­146 as you will have a good overview of the scientific and operational challenges involved.

More generally, the course will provide experience in project management challenges as the lessons learned will be widely applicable to project management. In particular, skills will be developed in teamwork, project management, and presentation. A final outcome of this workshop will be the development of a peer network.


Professor Neil Harris - Professor of Atmospheric Informatics and Head of Centre, Atmospheric Informatics and Emissions Technology

Dr Iq Mead -  Lecturer in Emissions Technology, Atmospheric Informatics and Emissions Technology

Dr Michelle Cain - NCAS Research Scientist at the University of Cambridge

Dr Stephane Bauguitte - Chemistry Specialist at the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements

Jamie Trembath - FAAM Instrument Team Manager

Axel Wellpott - FAAM Data Specialist 


A limited number of fully-funded places are available for current PhD students, with priority to those that are NERC-funded. Funding covers fees, UK travel, accommodation and food. If you would like to be considered for a funded place, please apply immediately  as they will be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Location and travel

Cranfield University is situated in Bedfordshire close to the border with Buckinghamshire. The University is located almost midway between the towns of Bedford and Milton Keynes and is conveniently situated between junctions 13 and 14 of the M1.

London Luton, Stansted and Heathrow airports are 30, 90 and 90 minutes respectively by car, offering superb connections to and from just about anywhere in the world. 

For further location and travel details

Location address

Cranfield University
College Road
MK43 0AL

Read our Professional development (CPD) booking conditions.