Operational partnerships

The Operational Partnerships access route is designed for researchers from organisations aligned to NERC*. We want as many people as possible to be able to make use of the FAAM Airborne Laboratory, including those from organisations not eligible to apply directly to NERC, so we have developed this access route in order to optimise its use.  As well as offering a straightforward mechanism that researchers in the UK and abroad can use to include airborne research in their work, we hope to maximise the efficiency and science impact of our flying. We would love to hear from you about how you might like to make use of the aircraft in this way.

An Operational Partnership is a temporary partnering arrangement based on operational availability: researchers can apply to use the aircraft alongside existing projects when they’re in the right place at the right time for them, whilst not compromising existing funded projects. It allows them to make use of the facility by identifying synergies with existing FAAM projects, with resulting costs lower than the full economic rate. 

For example, a publicly-funded body interested in making land-use measurements identifies an existing, funded FAAM project making cloud measurements over their location of interest. That body applies to become an Operational Partner so that they can fly and collect data on some of those planned flights. As another example, an EU-funded centre interested in measuring the effects of wind farms identifies a period of Cranfield-based flying in the FAAM calendar at a time of year that meets their needs. They need to install some equipment on the aircraft, which requires a separate, parallel application process. They apply to become an Operational Partner so that they can slot in their own flights around the already-planned Cranfield flights.

Access to the aircraft for an operational partner is charged at a baseline rate per hour, covering operational costs and a small contribution to facility upkeep, with fuel costs incurred additionally if appropriate. Additional costs may also be incurred for airport operations, sondes, logistics and operator overheads; these will be determined once your application has been approved. The Operational Partnership access route does not include a mechanism to cover engineering costs or certification costs for new kit, which need to be addressed separately if required.

The application process is broadly as follows:

  • Potential Operational Partner contacts FAAM to express interest in opportunity
  • FAAM assesses whether potential Operational Partner meets baseline criteria
  • FAAM discusses feasibility with Principal Investigator(s) of an existing planned project
  • FAAM provides applicant with approximate costings
  • Potential Operational Partner makes formal application using New Operational Partnership Project Application Form and submits a FAAM Form 1, with the assistance of FAAM Science Partnerships Lead if required
  • FAAM/NERC accepts feasibility and assesses scheduling, application, funding and capacity
  • Applicant notified of outcome of assessment and provided with full quote

If the proposal is approved, the detailed planning phase of the project will begin, typically 12-24 months before the start of a project, depending on its scope and complexity. Operational and technical planning will be done by FAAM, closely involving the Operational Partner, the Principal Investigator of the existing project, and aircraft operator Airtask, including any engineering work required alongside the proposal.

To view our flying plans, please visit our calendar. For more information and to discuss your ideas, please contact FAAM’s Science Partnerships Lead, Hannah Price (hannah.price@faam.ac.uk).

 * Examples of this may include: existing UKRI research institutes, non-profit making organisations, independent research organisations, public sector research establishments, and international organisations who share NERC’s vision and purpose. The access route is not open to organisations with a general commercial aim, who can access the facility at a fair market rate described here https://www.faam.ac.uk/using-faam/commercial-users/

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