King Air airplane in background with King Air Research Aircraft: Atmospheric Science

Facility Overview


CSWR radar location and King Air flight strategy  charts

Overview of CSWR radar location and King Air flight strategy during SNOWIE (from French et al. 2018, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci)

Research deployments

Over the past 15 years, the King Air has been deployed to support nearly 30 research projects directly funded by NSF as part of the LAOF pool. These have included a wide range of research topics, including cloud physics, air chemistry, flux measurements, and development and testing of new airborne instrumentation. Many projects have been based locally in Laramie, but deployments have commonly taken place around the United States and even internationally - including Finland, Martinique, and England.

Numerous deployments have occurred in coordination with other LAOF facilities. One notable recent example was the SNOWIE project. This project was focused on studying the effects of cloud seeding over the Payette Mountains in Idaho, and involved the King Air making airborne measurements that were coordinated with observations from the Center for Severe Weather Research’s mobile Doppler on Wheels trucks.

More recently, the King Air participated in the CHEESEHEAD project, which was focused on quantifying boundary layer fluxes over an evolving vegetation environment. For this project, the King Air flew along grid patterns as part of an extensive array of surface-based instruments, UAVs, and radiosonde operations, including the LAOF pool’s Integrated Sounding System and Integrated Surface Flux System.

CHEESEHEAD instrument locations chartCHEESEHEAD instrument locations and example King Air flight track

 Students learning about the King Air during a facility open house for TECPEC

Students learning about the King Air during a facility open house for TECPEC


The King Air is also actively used in education, both for graduate students at the University of Wyoming, and as a requestable facility. One recent field deployment with a specific educational focus was SEAR-MAR, headed by Millersville University and also involving students at Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers, and the University of Maryland - Baltimore County. For this project, the King Air was deployed to Lancaster, PA, where students from each university could take part in mission planning and serve as science crew aboard the research flights.

Another education-oriented project, TECPEC, was a joint effort between the University of Wyoming and University of Utah, again allowing students from both universities to be directly involved in mission planning and execution. For this project, the King Air was primarily based in Laramie, with a short deployment to Salt Lake City allowing more direct involvement by the University of Utah students.

Future plans

In 2019, the Department of Atmospheric Science was awarded a grant as part of the NSF’s Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure (MSRI) program, centered around the acquisition and modification of a newer King Air 350 that will replace the current aircraft as the University of Wyoming’s airborne research facility. In addition to the aircraft itself, the MSRI grant also provides for the development of upgraded research capabilities, including the capability to support new instrumentation and improved capacity to support remote instrument operations by science personnel on the ground. More information about the aircraft acquisition and modification can be found here.