Air International 2018-09
M.Broadbent - High flight /Technology/
One of two ER-2s operated by NASA as part of the Airborne Science Program.
Most payloads are carried in four pressurised compartments in the central fuselage equipment bay, but they are also installed in the wing and cockpit.
A second ER-2 pilot driving a Dodge Charger chase car plays a crucial role by calling out the aircraft;s descent rate and proximity to the ground to the flying pilot over the radio.
The taildragger configuration and large wingspan means the ER-2 is challenging to fly. After lift-off, the pilot holds the aircraft level for a couple of seconds before pulling into a 45° climb.
Before each mission an ER-2 pilot spends an hour in life support getting suited up and pre-breathing 100% pure oxygen. Life support personnel assist the pilot to the aircraft; there are about 13 connections the technicians will use to strap them in.
The ER-2 is a modular aircraft, with payloads installed and removed from the fuselage bay and wing pods as research requirements change over time.
A wide variety of science instruments have been carried by the ER-2s. Here technicians download collected data; the aircraft also have instrumentation and video transmission capabilities.
The ER-2s are responsible for testing prototypes of sensors which will go into space; here ER-2 N809NA prepares to fly the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar on a test flight.
Pitot Tom Ryan during a mission. The bulky spacesuit and helmet restrict the ER-2 pilot's movement.