‘Pilots avoid clouds, but we love them’

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Thursday, 5 July 2018

As part of the project, two specially designed aircraft took off from Baramati airport

Pune: Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) is carrying out a cloud seeding project called ‘Cloud Aerosol Interaction and Precipitation Enhancement Experiment’ (CAIPEX) from Wednesday. As part of the project, two specially designed aircraft took off from Baramati airport. Excerpts from a talk to one of the two pilots Byron Pederson. 

Q: How is the project carried out?
A: We are instructed by the scientists. They have certain parameters which they are looking for. My understanding of the project is that a aircraft will seed the cloud and we will fly through that cloud at various intervals to make observations through scientific instruments to verify how the seeding is done. They will choose the cloud and will tell us the altitude at which they want us to seed the cloud. 

Q: What are the challenges while implementing the project?
A: We face various challenges. We have to be aware about any situation including thunderstorms while moving amongst the clouds, the interference involved and fly the plane safely. Here, the possibility of lightning is very less as it does not happen during monsoon. 

Q: What is it about the project that you love?
A: Clouds make us happy. All pilots avoid clouds, but we love them. The most enjoyable thing is the flight’s movement. 

Q: How many clouds are targeted at one go? 
A: We did some research in 2014, then in 2015, we did cloud seeding. It is different. Here, we are doing hygroscopic cloud seeding. Flares are burnt and released in the clouds. Then, we have to see which ones are the natural raindrops and which are artificial. 

Q: Is the project implemented differently here?
A: This is my fourth project. The other ones were primarily in Saudi Arabia. There, there are moisture winds from over the Red Sea and warm winds flow from the land and there is more intensity and lightning there. In India, the clouds do not go high and the intensity and lightning is less. During the monsoon, there is no lightning and things will change during the retreat of monsoon. The upper layer of air will be colder and the one below is warm and then both get mixed. I have carried out seeding at Nashik, Mahabaleshwar, Hubli, Solapur, Kolhapur and 
Aurangabad.  

Air traffic control
Many countries do not have facilities for smaller planes. They are used to airlines moving from specific location to location. They do not want to deal with people like us. We need to go beyond the scope of what they are used to and try to integrate into the system. This is very difficult. We faced a similar problem in Saudi Arabia, but that was sorted out later. Communication is also a major challenge in India. Infrastructure is also a problem and there is shortage of trained pilots for such programmes. 

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