North Dakota farmers have historically faced above-average crop losses due to hail and drought. These challenges have contributed to reduced crop yields and farm incomes. This led to the search for ways to manage these conditions, which could consequently improve the average farmer’s way of life. One promising new technology was the emerging science of weather modification. The first cloud seeding activities on record in North Dakota occurred in 1951, performed by farmers using ground based generators. This was the beginning of what is today’s North Dakota Cloud Modification Project (NDCMP). In 1961, the founders of Weather Modification, Inc. (WMI) began using aircraft for the program to suppress hail. This past year marked the 54th consecutive season of some form of seeding in Ward County. In the mid 1970’s, there were as many as 17 counties in North Dakota participating in the cloud seeding program. The number has decreased due to various factors over the years, and currently there are 6 active counties in target areas that cover 10,425 square miles (or, almost 6.7 million acres) – nearly 15% of the state’s area.
UND students have a unique ability to participate in the NDCMP as pilot-interns. To become a pilot-intern you must have your multi-engine commercial instrument rating before the project begins and have completed the Weather Mod classes through the Atmospheric Sciences department. Starting in the Fall 2013, students will only have to take Applied Weather Mod (Atsc 252), which is offered in the Spring semester to meet the class requirement for the internship. Pilot interns go to WMI in Fargo, ND to complete their High Altitude and High Performance endorsements in a King Air, allowing the intern to log some great multi-time and actual instrument time. This internship is based in the Western part of North Dakota flying a fleet of Piper Seneca II, Cessna 340s, and a Turbo Prop Cheyenne II. The internship lasts typically for 92 days. Interns do get paid $11 per hour for their time.
Flight training at UND and many large flight operations have pilots avoid the dangers of thunderstorms by just evading and re-routing their path around actual storm. As a pilot-intern, you will learn and experience the proper way to fly in close proximity to mesoscale convective systems, because the two modes that are used to deliver the seeding material into the storm are by: releasing the material directly in the updraft by flying through the top of the growing turrets; or by releasing material in the updrafts/inflow near the base of the storms.
As a former pilot-intern of NDCMP and the current Co-Captain on the Atmospheric Sciences research Citation II at UND, I highly recommend this internship for the great experience, addition of multi-time, and the knowledge of severe weather flying. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. My office is in the hangar next to the 5 story building. 701-777-7852 firstname.lastname@example.org. Stats were taken from the NDCMP Operations Manual and http://www.swc.state.nd.us