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Impressions of the First P6 Science Flight

After months of preparation I got to change my office clothes to a screaming orange immersion suit and spend almost four hours in cold, unpressurised and loud propeller machine over the most remote Arctic. I took off with the knowledge that if something goes wrong, I'll find myself either on the arctic ice pack miles from any civilisation, or worst, floating in the northern Atlantic. Adventure in the name of science.

The goal of the mission was to reach to solid sea ice pack that this year - fortunately for us - is located a way more in the south than usually this time of year and sample the cloud properties along the way. Though flying above, within and below clouds (sometimes excitingly low) the circumstances were mild and we were delighted of the smooth ride.

In the northernmost turning point we sampled aerosols below clouds and at the same time got to enjoy the views of floating sea ice. A video illustrates the serenity of a world that might seem to have avoided the human touch but in reality is undergoing rapid changes due to human influence to the climate. It gives a touch of sadness to know that next year this ice might not be here.

Besides getting in touch with the arctic clouds, the first flight mission got us in acquainted with the difficulties facing us the rest of this campaign. Namely, supercooled water in arctic clouds. In clouds droplets can become supercooled, which means that they stay liquid in temperatures below zero. This state can persist a long time, unless freezing is triggered by an aerosol particle or in this case by the aircraft body. Normally, pilots avoid flying into icing conditions but in science one has to find the subtle balance between what we want to measure and what is doable. Finding this balance is the main challenge in all aircraft campaigns.

The SID-3 probe after the flight. Ice build up wasn't avoided. One of the many challenges in arctic measurements.

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