The Ministry of Civil Aviation has turned down a proposal to permit Russian aircraft M-55 Geophysica to fly over the Indian skies as part of an international research programme on climate change involving Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) and supported by the European Union.
The decision has hit the prospects of collecting valuable data on the impact of the Indian monsoon convection on the tropical tropopause layer and climate as part of the StratoClim project. The aim of the ambitious venture is to assess the role of upper troposphere and stratosphere in climate change and it involves 28 research institutions in 11 countries.
The Civil Aviation Ministry has expressed defence and security concerns for not clearing the proposal. Efforts by the research team to convince the authorities that the aircraft would be used only for research purpose have failed. The high-altitude aircraft has only a single seat, making it impossible for an Indian pilot to join the mission programme. The research team has taken the aircraft on rent from a private firm.
The StratoClim project had been planning a measurement campaign during summer 2016 over India using the high-altitude aircraft hoping that it will bring unparalleled information. A former Russian spy plane, the M-55 Geophysica can carry 1,500 kg of sensors. The aircraft payload included instruments devoted to characterise aerosols and ice crystals as well as the chemical composition of gas tracers.
The Dynamic Meteorology Laboratory in Paris had recommended a joint venture with the Cusat’s Centre for Atmospheric Radar Research to study the impact of the Indian monsoon convection on the tropical tropopause layer and climate. The centre’s Rs.20-crore Stratosphere Troposphere (ST) Radar was expected to play a key role in generating valuable data towards the StratoClim research project.