By Janina C. Lim

Agency seeks to buy new aircraft for cloud seeding

Posted on February 06, 2016

AN agency seeks to buy new aircraft so that it can transport more salt for cloud seeding operations, which are conducted to curb the effects of the El Niño phenomenon.

Once purchased, the aircraft will be able to carry nearly nine times more salt than the Philippine Air Force (PAF) plane currently in use by the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The PAF plane can only distribute five bags or a total of 125 kilos of salt, BSWM’s Hydrology and Grain Stimulation Section Chief Henry M. Cacayan said in an interview. Salt is used as an agent to encourage formation of ice crystals, which stimulates cloud formation and rain.

The aircraft the agency is looking to buy can conduct cloud seeding operations while carrying 1000 kilos of salt, higher then the average 500 kilos that planes from aviation companies can carry, he added. It will also be parked at the PAF base.

The agency already sought guidance from the Air Force in procuring aircraft suitable for its needs. The PAF has already evaluated four types of planes based on key performance parameters: 50% on effectiveness value, 25% on life cycle cost, and 25% on affordability.

The Cessna Grand Caravan was the most viable aircraft, graded 91.62% in the study. It also led in range capacity and power endurance estimated at 7.10 nautical miles and seven hours, respectively. Ranking second is Casa 212 200 with a 64.59% rating, followed by a Casa 212 400 with a 63.13% rating, and a King Air 350 with a 54.23% rating.

For the past few years, the Air Force has formulated plans to acquire nine Cessnas worth a total of P1.08 billion, Mr. Cayanan said, adding that acquisition plans have been presented at the agriculture department last month.

By having access to its own aircraft, the agency will be able to carry out cloud seeding operations faster, BSWM’s Assistant Director Sonia M. Salguero in a separate interview. “We can’t respond immediately without having our own [equipment],” she said.

If approved by the DA, funds to buy a plane will be included in its budget for 2017, Mr. Cacayan said.

Currently, the BSWM has access to only two aircraft for cloud seeding -- one from Far East Aviation Services and the other from the Air Force.