PALMDALE – A DC-8 airliner is making some low-altitude flights over parts of the Los Angeles area Thursday, but it’s not an aerial emergency — it’s a NASA research project.
According to NASA, the research aircraft crew is in the midst of a two-month study of “the life cycles of smoke from fires in the United States.” The DC-8 will be making flights Thursday over portions of the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley to collect air samples, flying at altitudes between 1,500 and 3,500 feet.
The plane made similar flights over the same areas on July 22 as it traveled from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale to Boise, Idaho. The plane is returning to Palmdale Thursday from Salina, Kansas.
According to NASA, a team from UC Irvine will analyze air samples collected by the research aircraft for more than 50 volatile organic compounds – – pollutants that contribute to ozone and particulate matter formation. The California Air Resources Board hopes the measurements will shed light on emission sources and atmospheric processes that lead to ambient air pollution.
“This is an exciting and rare opportunity to gather information that will help us to understand more about the challenges posed by climate change and the role it plays in the causation of wildfires,” CARB Executive Officer Richard W. Corey said in a statement. “Our mandate is to protect public health and we expect the findings from these research flights will improve our ability to more fully plan for and communicate the potential health risks posed by wildfires to the public.”