NASA testing air quality in Visalia, Porterville


The Visalia airport serves private planes, commercial service to LAX and Las Vegas, local helicopter companies and more, but for the next several weeks it will be a crucial location to helping a NASA project.

NASA is conducting a study called "DISCOVERY-AQ" AQ for air quality, and is using the Visalia, Porterville and other Valley airports to help them coordinate their tests from a 4-engine turbo prop plane, with some ground based equipment to study air pollution.

Visalia airport manager Mario Cifuentes said, "And that in conjunction with satellite data they're collecting they're hoping to make a determination as to the reliability of some of the satellite data they're getting regards to some of the air quality in the Valley."

In this NASA video taken from their website, NASA scientist Jim Crawford talks about the $30 million project, which will be conducted at several different locations in the United States.

Since federal aviation requirements don't allow NASA's planes to fly lower than one-thousand feet in populated areas, NASA's planes don't ever land at the airports to do their testing, though it may seem like they're about to land.

Cifuentes said, "They don't touch down they actually just make low passes with equipment on the airplane in conjunction with equipment on the ground that they can determine how that information is measuring up to what their satellite images are taking."

The city of Visalia is excited by NASA coming to town, calling it a good opportunity to show the airport's versatile use.

Cifuentes added, "We thought it was great they came in and brought a trailer and provided their own power source and that sort of thing so it's good for us to be able to work with the government and also to have the NASA aircraft flying around."

The city says it has been getting a number of calls from the public, questioning why the NASA plane is flying over Visalia twice a day. They'll be here, running their tests for at least another week.

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