With regret, we have to inform everyone concerned with the ACAO detachment to Kiruna, scheduled to start on 16 March, that this will be postponed for the foreseeable future due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
This will of course be a great disappointment to many concerned with the ACAO project, which is an exciting Met Office project to study cold-air outbreaks, with international collaborators making air, sea and ground-based measurements. We are also particularly aware that this was to have been our first FAAM detachment in support of the Met Office under the new arrangements. However, we have regretfully concluded that the constraints imposed by the current epidemic mean that the detachment is not currently viable.
We have explored every avenue in order to establish what could be possible. In doing this we have placed the welfare of the entire ACAO team, including FAAM, Met Office, Airtask, Manchester, Leeds and Avalon staff, as our highest priority. The final factor which convinced us that the detachment should not go ahead was the scientific requirement to use Svalbard as a refuelling stop. Quite understandably, the Norwegian authorities have implemented a requirement for all visitors to be subject to a 14 day quarantine. Whilst this may have allowed a refuelling stop alone, the risk of an aircraft technical problem occurring in Svalbard and therefore automatically triggering a 14 day grounding meant that the risk was unacceptable. The final confirmation of this was received around midday today, when we were informed that permission to land in Svalbard under these circumstances would not be granted.
Clearly, the end to the epidemic is not yet in sight and so we cannot rule out further disruptions to our flying programme. The FAAM team will be working with all the facility users over the coming months to work out how the requirements of all current and future projects can be accommodated.
Mo Smith, FAAM Operations Manager
Stephen Mobbs, NCAS Director
13th March 2020