The contract makes available to NASA, other allied government agencies and research universities different types of "special missions" aircraft which Phoenix Air has designed, built and operates. These aircraft are currently used by other government agencies, primarily the Department of Defense, on a variety of contracts. NASA intends to use these aircraft when called up in support of science missions.
Contracted flights will be primarily focused on the needs of the Earth science community, gathering data via radiometers, lasers and other sensors installed onboard Phoenix Air's highly modified fleet of special missions aircraft.
"This was not an easy contract to win, even though we had the aircraft here and available," explained Steve Christopher, Phoenix Air's Director of Military Programs. "A number of engineering teams from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility visited here numerous times to insure we meet NASA's high level of competence required for their particular type of scientific work."
The core purpose of the contract is to provide access by NASA and some research universities to aircraft platforms for use as an instrumentation carrier. Phoenix Air's existing fleet of special mission aircraft were carefully examined by NASA engineers for their adaptability to support various scientific payload systems with existing aircraft viewing ports, internal power systems, external data gathering antennas and other modifications Phoenix Air technicians have made to these aircraft.
"Many of the proposed NASA scientific missions will be on short notice, and we are especially well suited for that," Christopher said. "We are very used to modifying our aircraft for different types of military radars and other sensor packages, so installing and operating these scientific packages is a good fit for us. We are very excited to have been awarded this contract."
Phoenix Air has its headquarters and heavy maintenance base in Cartersville with additional offices in five other states and Germany. The company has more than 40 aircraft in its fleet and 200 employees supporting its worldwide operations.