With all of the news about spy balloons and UFO’s being shot down over the Great Lakes, it’s no wonder that people are keeping a close eye on what’s going on overhead. Tuesday night after seeing some conversations on social media about a couple planes doing relays between northern and central Minnesota. We were curious just what this was all about. So using FlightAware I watched and studied up on these two planes and wondered.
An ER2 High Altitude Airborn Science Aircraft spend the better part of Tuesday night flying between Mille Lacs and Red Lakes. The ER2, which is actually a retired U2 spyplane, was accompanied by a Lockhead P-3. The difference is that the ER2 was working in airspace around 60,000 feet while the P-3, a 4 engine turboprop, was working at around 20 to 25,000 feet.
According to NASA’s website the ER2 operates “as flying laboratories in the Airborne Science Program under the Agency’s Science Mission Directorate. The aircraft, based at NASA Armstrong’s Building 703 in Palmdale, CA, collect information about Earth resources, celestial observations, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, and oceanic processes. The aircraft also are used for electronic sensor research and development, satellite calibration, and satellite data validation!” (NASA)
“NASA ER-2s have played an important role in Earth science research because of their ability to fly into the lower stratosphere at subsonic speeds, enabling direct stratospheric sampling as well as virtual satellite simulation missions. The aircraft’s unique capabilities enable studies such as stratospheric ozone concentrations over Antarctica and the Arctic.” (NASA)
Whatever science that they were doing it got the attention of some avaition enthusiasts on social media. We tracked the two planes for over 4 hours until they left the area around 8:50pm.