Low-flying plane doing lake researchThe Fourth of July weekend provided an aerial show outside of fireworks along the North Shore.
The Fourth of July weekend provided an aerial show outside of fireworks along the North Shore. Many people noticed a large plane flying low over Lake Superior. According to Monaco Air in Duluth, a charter and private plane service, the Fokker F27 had researchers on board studying the lake.
It was part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration project mapping the shoreline of Lake Superior. According to NOAA, the project is for studying lake features such as water depths and bluff and lake bed erosion. The work is normally done from boats but they can’t reach shallow areas near the shore.
James and Kathy Clark said they were staying at their cabin near the Gooseberry River over the weekend and “noticed a twin-engine prop plane flying up and down the shore in about 10-minute intervals more than a dozen times.”
Two Harbors Police Chief Chris Donald said his office received calls about the plane. He said air traffic control in Duluth reported that geographical surveys of the shoreline were being done for the “next couple of weeks” with a plane flying at 1,200 to 2,200 feet.
NOAA officially described what the plane is doing in a press release Wednesday:
“An airborne mission is underway to measure the elevation of underwater areas anticipated to range from 0.3 to 20 meters deep. A lidar (light detection and ranging) data collection instrument is mounted on the plane. This device sends a laser signal down to the water, where it bounces off the lake bottom and sends the signal back to the plane. The amount of time this laser pulse takes to return to the plane indicates the water depth to within 15 centimeters. To collect this data, the plane flies several adjacent flight lines over a section of the coastline at low elevation and speed and sends a laser pulse every 5 meters.”
NOAA coordinates its research with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program, based in Two Harbors. It is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative with a study area from the Apostle Islands west and then northeast to Grand Marais.
Skywatchers should also be looking for a much smaller plane buzzing the area this month. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be doing its regular spraying for gypsy moths in Lake County. The DNR will be treating 98,000 acres in St. Louis and Lake counties this weekend. They should finish by Monday if weather allows.
The MDA did spraying last year but has found new infestations in adjacent areas. The weekend spraying will focus on areas around Knife River and Legler Lake.