In June 2003, Directflight was awarded a 10 year contract by BAe Systems to operate a BAe 146-300 Atmospheric Research (Jet) Aircraft (ARA).
Jointly funded by the UK Met Office and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), it is managed by the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) and based at Cranfield Airport in Bedfordshire. It is configured as a highly specialised meteorological research platform and carries 3 flight crew, 1 mission scientist, 1 systems manager and 16 instrument operators. Directflight operates the aircraft worldwide in accordance with Public Transport regulation. Since operations commenced, meteorological research campaigns have included detachments to the Arctic, North and South America, the Caribbean, North and West Africa, the Far East and Europe. Immediate future campaigns are planned for Scandinavia, the UK and North Africa. In addition to operating the aircraft, Directflight is also responsible for the provision of maintenance at home and overseas which includes the reconfiguration and installation of atmospheric research instrumentation.
Civil Contingency Operations
In May 2010, the aircraft played a pivotal role in the Civil Contingency arrangements that were activated by the UK Department of Transport to counter the closure of UK airspace that resulted from the volcanic eruptions in Iceland.