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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment

WEATHER AIRCRAFT FLIES INTO RECORD BOOKS


24 August 1998

Senator Ian Macdonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Bureau of Meteorology has welcomed the first successful North Atlantic crossing by the Australian designed robotic aircraft, the Aerosonde.

Senator Macdonald who officially launched the joint Aerosonde project in Canberra in May 1998 said that this trans Atlantic Flight shows the world class technological expertise that exists in Australian industry and in the Bureau of Meteorology.

"My congratulations must go to all involved, particularly Dr Greg Holland from the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne, Tad McGeer, who proposed and organised the mission, and to Juris Vagners at the University of Washington.

"The Aerosonde was the first robotic aircraft to cross the North Atlantic Ocean, the smallest aircraft to do so, and it had flight time of roughly 26 hours for the 3,200 kilometre trip (approx)," Senator Macdonald said.

The Aerosonde landed on the West Coast of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in the early hours of Saturday (22 August, Australian time) after departing from Bell Island Airport in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

The Aircraft left Bell Island, Newfoundland, on Thursday. It then moved out of radio contact and conducted a specified flight plan entirely on its own until it arrived off Benbecula.

"The attempt has not been without drama, one aircraft crashed on take-off due to a software glitch, and one aircraft was lost to Neptune somewhere in the North Atlantic.

"This transatlantic crossing caps off a good year for the Aerosonde. It has just completed a 3-year development program conducted by Environmental Systems and Services in Melbourne in partnership with the Insitu Group and the Bureau of Meteorology.

"Further developments will lead to a more robust and flexible aircraft for routine operations, with the first aircraft going into operations in 1999. This crossing follows extensive trials held in Australia, Canada and Asia over the past year. It followed a path similar to that taken by the first Atlantic manned crossing by Alcock and Brown.

"This record breaking flight was undertaken by the Insitu Group and the University of Washington with a grant from the US Office of Naval Research.

"The flights were planned to collect meteorological data and demonstrate the capacity of the aircraft to operate over all ocean basins taking observations in critical locations for weather forecasting," Senator Macdonald said.

Further details on the crossing and the Aerosonde project can be obtained at: http://www.bom.gov.au/bmrc/meso/New/aerohome.htm

Ends
24 August 1998
For further background information on the Aerosonde contact: Clare Richards 02 6277 3665 or 0419 698 275

Commonwealth of Australia