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The NOAA Aircraft Plan: Building and Sustaining NOAA's 21st Century Fleet

October 15, 2019

This report assesses the current and future airborne observational infrastructure needs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in carrying out its mission of protecting lives, livelihoods, and valuable natural resources for the American public. We examined the current airborne capacity and capability of NOAA's aircraft fleet, while simultaneously evaluating the required aircraft capabilities to meet NOAA's current and future mission needs. By analyzing the status of NOAA aircraft and the current and future capabilities required to meet NOAA's public safety, national security, economic, and stewardship missions, we set a plan of action for ensuring future needs will be met, while minimizing the risk of capacity gaps that would negatively impact mission-critical data needs. The NOAA Aircraft Plan presents an integrated approach consisting of best management practices and long-term recapitalization to extend and sustain capabilities. Capabilities including aircraft chartering and leasing, unmanned aircraft systems, and the federal aircraft fleet to meet NOAA prioritized airborne requirements were evaluated. Balancing available capabilities with prioritized requirements resulted in a long-term strategy of acquiring and instrumenting four aircraft, and embarking on detailed requirements for two aircraft, to meet NOAA core capability requirements within each mission objective. A thorough assessment of the staffing and maintenance requirements is included. The study did not evaluate, and the plan does not address, the recapitalization plans of other federal aircraft fleets.


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