National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded an $11.8 million contract to Textron Aviation, Inc., for the purchase of a new twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 350 CER turboprop aircraft.
Once completed, the aircraft will be outfitted with remote sensing equipment that will measure the water content of snow and soil — data that is used for flood, river level and water supply forecasts. The aircraft can also be configured to support other NOAA missions, including coastal mapping and aerial surveys of damage in communities after a storm landfall.
The aircraft will be built at Textron Aviation’s factory in Wichita, Kansas and is expected to be in service by late spring of 2021.
NOAA has also awarded a contract to Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation for the purchase of a new Gulfstream G550 aircraft to support hurricane and tropical storm forecasts, atmospheric research, and other NOAA missions.
“These American-made aircraft will greatly enhance NOAA’s ability to collect data that are vital to forecasters, researchers, and emergency managers,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “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.”
Both the G550 and King Air 350 CER will be based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida, along with NOAA’s nine other specialized environmental data-gathering aircraft. The NOAA aircraft fleet is operated, managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO).