European Facility For Airborne Research

European Facility For Airborne Research Oct. 3, 2023, 06:02

Airborne Research Stories

Trainees' testimonials from EASI, STANCO and RS4forestEBV Training Courses

This summer, 3 schools were organised in Shannon (Ireland), Cambridge (UK) and Bavaria (Germany), involving 46 teachers and organisers, 58 PhD students and post-docs, 3 operators and 3 aircraft. You can read below some testimonials  provided by trainees.

Ana Álvarez Piedehierro     EASI Training Course
Philipp Gasch  
 Peter Gallimore    STANCO Training Course
Katarzyna Zielewska-Büttner    RS4forestEBV Training Course


I recently took part in the EASI training course, organized by CNR-ISAC (Italy) and EUFAR in Shannon, Ireland. 20 trainees, trainers from all around the world and the fantastic SAFIRE crew participated in this 9-day intensive training course: a combination of a summer school with lectures, a field campaign and a computing camp.

Lectures had both a theoretical and a practical approach to “Exploring Air-Sea Interaction via Airborne Measurements”. We started with the basics of turbulence, structure of the marine and coastal boundary layer, flux estimations, study of aerosol and clouds, but we were also introduced to airborne environmental measures and how to maximize the possibilities that our flights on board the SAFIRE ATR42 would bring us. In order to achieve that, we were provided with tools for data analysis and visualization and we were walked through the processing of core parameters of the SAFIRE ATR42 and many other measurements. The trainers made a great effort to preprocess data from our flights very quickly so we would be able to work on our data as soon as possible to show preliminary results of our research to the rest of the group.

The practical work was organized into teams each with assigned objectives and a predesigned flight plan. Every team consisted of five trainees each with different expertise and backgrounds, making the team as well-balanced as possible. We also had a trainer supervising each team, helping on planning the flight experiments. The SAFIRE staff was always helpful, trying very hard to meet our flight plans. Working so close with the crew (pilots and scientific staff) was very inspiring.

I was impressed with the high scientific level reached during the training course. The meteo briefings we had during our flight days were detailed and the discussions very enriching. During these meetings we decided together which flight plan would best meet the existing weather conditions and which team should go next.

For a first-timer in airborne research, the most interesting part was performing the research flight itself. Every member of my team had a key role during the flight, being responsible for one of the working stations controlling certain instrumentation. Working with my team was easy and fun, we all tried to contribute with something and learn from the others. The SAFIRE ATR42 aircraft was fully equipped with atmospheric research instrumentation and we had the chance of using a recently installed LIDAR, which turned out to be very useful for our boundary layer studies. The aircraft also had HT, gas, wind, radiation, particle, droplet sensors… everything we needed for carrying out our projects.

The coding language of the training course was Python, and even though almost all the participants were new to this, we successfully learned the basics. We did this by helping each other and therefore could use the analysis scripts provided by the trainers.

Despite the difficulty of planning a training course like this one, EASI went smoothly. The organizers and trainers did a splendid job making the EASI training course possible for us. We brought home a lot of knowledge, new skills and many contacts to stay in touch with and to help keep working on airborne research and many other projects to come.


Ana Álvarez Piedehierro, Postdoctoral Researcher at Universidad de Extremadura, Spain.

 Picture: Hanna Lokis and Ana Álvarez Piedehierro onboard the ATR42 during EASI.


The chance to participate in the EUFAR summer school has been a great opportunity and experience for me. The course on Exploring Air Sea Interaction (EASI) from an airborne platform was highly valuable to my research experience and knowledge on aircraft measurements. Interesting and fruitful discussions with motivated scientists from around the world developed on the lectures, flights and data analysis throughout the summer school.

The school was centered around the SAFIRE ATR-42 aircraft and consisted of a mix of lectures, flight planning and experiments as well as subsequent analysis of the data. We grouped into four research teams with dedicated research topics, e.g. the determination of the energy budget components for marine stratocumulus in relation to its characteristics. Each team consisted of five students and was supervised by a well-established senior researcher. The team members each had different fields of expertise to cover the full measurement equipment range of the ATR-42. For me, the group structure enabled intensive, rewarding discussions and a rapid learning process through interdisciplinary knowledge transfer.

Having the chance to visit, learn about and even fly on-board the ATR-42 presented a memorable experience to all of us. The in-flight decision making with a number of scientists and the flight crew on such a large aircraft posed a new challenge, from which we learned a lot. Particularly valuable to me was the opportunity to get insight into the turbulence as well as the aerosol Lidar measurement systems onboard the ATR-42. In combination with the high quality, in-depth lectures dealing with marine boundary layer structure this really extended my knowledge on exploring air sea interaction processes from an airborne platform.

Even the weather contributed to creating an authentic measurement campaign atmosphere. Frequently changing, sometimes challengingtypical Irishweather conditions taught us to rapidly adapt our plans and stressed the importance of having many options at hand. During almost all flights the teams had to make in-flight adjustments to the flight plan to account for unexpected cloud patterns, vertical atmospheric profiles or even frontal systems. We thereby learned about the freedoms and limitations of performing atmospheric measurements using an aircraft of this size. There was a wealth of data acquired and a first analysis conducted during the summer school showed some interesting results already.

The dedication of the lecturers and SAFIRE staff went beyond my expectations and enabled us to gain a great amount of experience during the 10-day summer school. My thanks go to EUFAR and all the people involved in the making of this remarkable summer school!


Philipp Gasch, PhD student at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany.


Picture: Konstantinos Doulgeris and Philipp Gasch preparing for the flight onboard the ATR-42.


The STANCO training course brought together a diverse range of participants from across Europe with an interest in airborne observations of the atmosphere. My own background is in laboratory measurements of atmospheric chemistry and I found the course an invaluable means to gain scientific flight experience.

The course’s strength was its combination of background theory and hands-on experience. Lectures in Cambridge were delivered by experts with experience in airborne observations and covered atmospheric composition, aircraft instrumentation, case studies of previous campaigns and an introduction to the practicalities of airborne research.

Participants gained unique “live” experience by flying on the UK’s BAe 146 research aircraft based at the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements, Cranfield. We were encouraged to play an active part in planning the itinerary for these flights, although some of our more outlandish suggestions were brought back to Earth by the course organisers and pilots! Each participant was seated with an experienced scientist during their flight which provided a great opportunity for informal questions in the turbulent boundary layer, or 50ft above the ocean.

Following the airborne experience, workshops on methods and software for analysing flight data were given and we divided into teams to digest the aircraft observations. I found it particularly interesting to work alongside other participants with complementary strengths in meteorology and climate science. Since the formal course we have continued to work together at a distance to put what we learned during the course into practice.

I would like to thank the many experts who made this course a valuable experience and particularly the school directors Piero, Jim and Radek.


Peter Gallimore, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Cambridge, UK.


Picture: Peter Gallimore (right) with STANCO trainees working on the processing of data acquired during STANCO.


I found the RS4forestEBV summer school very comprehensive, valuable and thoroughly prepared training for young scientists in the field of biodiversity and remote sensing.

The RS4forestEBV organized by ITC - Faculty of Geo-Informatics Science and Earth Observation took place at two locations in Bavaria in Germany: 1) in the Bavarian Forest National Park and 2) in the German Aerospace Centre, Oberpfaffenhofen.

The course combined theoretical lectures on forest biodiversity, biodiversity monitoring systems and applicable remote sensing techniques with practical exercises on study design, use of special equipment and data collection in the field. Tutorials and hands on training in data modelling and evaluation rounded the curriculum of the course

All needed advanced equipment was available for trainees to be used for field measurements giving an opportunity to perform a lot of measurements (e.g. terrestrial LiDAR, LAI, spectral and thermal leaf measurements etc.) that are useful for collection of reference terrestrial data.

Both locations, Bavarian Forest for the first week and field work, and the DLR Earth Observation Centre were an excellent choice. Exploring the area and scientific experiments of the National Park where remote sensing is widely used for biodiversity studies delivered a lot of motivation, impulses and scientific ideas for further research work of many of us. Visiting the DLR we had an opportunity to learn more about the technical aspects of airborne research and development. A special point of the summer school was a visit to the EUFAR aircraft show and social dinner organized for the ICARE International Conference taking place in Oberpfaffenhofen at that time, giving a chance for interaction with the participants of the conference.

During the entire two weeks excellent international trainers shared openly their expertise and knowledge and presented interesting case studies on data processing, data fusion, modelling and analysis. Also all the trainees contributed in a very important way with their different profiles to the course making sharing of experiences and ideas and having always a good mood a very important aspect of the course.

Having a background in traditional photogrammetry, aerial imagery and LiDAR, it was a great opportunity for me to learn about the thermal and hyperspectral remote sensing measurements and their practicalities and to master my knowledge on LiDAR. I found the combination of theoretical and practical elements of the summer school very important. I definitely benefited a lot from the course and I will use the knowledge gained in my doctoral thesis and in my daily work on detection of forest structure parameters from remote sensing data in the thematic field of forest nature conservation.

Thank you very much for the excellent organization!


Katarzyna Zielewska-Büttner, Researcher at FVA Freiburg, Germany


Picture: Terrestrial Lidar measurements in the field.

Originally published on Sept. 15, 2017
Last update on Sept. 26, 2018

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