On Friday we had an exciting HALO flight with the objective to validate satellite measurements and collect data in and above the clouds. HALO was supposed to meet the high-flying satellite over the measurement area on its way southward, which requires an extremely exact timing by the pilots. Additionally, we wanted the meeting point to be at a certain altitude above nice convective clouds. It was almost unbelievable with which precision the pilots managed to fulfill this strange request! Actually, HALO was at exactly at the planned place above the clouds at the right time, amazing!
We took off 11:00 local time, shortly after the first cumuli started to pop up. It is always fun for me to watch these very regular visible signs of the beginning of convection each morning here in Manaus. You may almost set your wristwatch at 10 am because that time the clouds start to evolve each day. After take-off we flew northward and observed high cirrus clouds, which would make the comparison with the satellite measurements more complicated. We took it as a challenge and decided during the flight to try to reach the high cirrus and to even fly above it. Here the exceptional capabilities of HALO came into play; HALO can fly high and for a long time. Indeed we managed to reach a flight level of 45,000 ft; we even got over the cirrus top. This was an amazing experience, seeing the contrast between the dark-blue upper atmosphere and space and the bright cirrus.