WP-3D Research Aircraft

The WP-3Ds, N42RF and N43RF (symbols) , have been the primary airborne platforms for meteorological research in NOAA since the late 1970s. They provide access to the lower and middle troposphere with large payload, large fuselage volume, long duration, and long range (See Aircraft Performance). Aircraft instrumentation includes fight-level data sensors, airborne radars with Doppler wind findin g, cloud physics instrumentation (including electric field measurements), remote sensors for surface wind and rainfall estimation, expendables (e.g.; dropsondes, AXBTs, and drifting buoys), and an aircraft-satellite data link (ASDL) to transmit data bac k to the ground. Some equipment, such as that for remote sensing of sea-surface conditions or for atmospheric electricity measurements, is unique to one airframe or the other. In addition to the hurricane research mission, for which they were originally p rocured, these aircraft support diverse programs throughout NOAA, outside the agency, and internationally.

Aircraft Performance:

25,000 ft (7.6 km)
2,225 nm (4,100 km) low altitude (<18,000 ft or 4.8 km)
3,300 nm (6,100km) high altitude (>18,000 ft or 4.8 km)
8.5 h low altitude
10.5 h high altitude
True air speed:
325 kt (170 m/s).
Aircraft dimensions:
length: 111' 2" (34.2 m)
wing span: 99' 7" (30.6 m)
height: 33' 8" (10.4 m)
Scientific Payload:
9000 lb (4090 kg)
18 (9 scientists/observers)


For more detailed information about the WP-3D Instrumentation check:
Flight Level Data
Airborne Radars
Cloud Physics
Airborne Remote Sensors
Aircraft-Satellite Data Link

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Frank Marks
Updated Dec. 7, 1995