The research aircraft Falcon 20E (registration code D-CMET) was set in operation in 1976 and is the basic tool for German and European airborne research dealing with any kind of investigation regarding earth and atmosphere. The Falcon exceeds the flight altitude of most commercial airliners. The ceiling of the Falcon is sufficient to reach the lower stratosphere in the mid latitudes, an area being a top research focus for some years now because of the ozone depletion. The Falcon is extremely robust and versatile allowing measurements inside thunderstorms as well as in a 30 meter distance behind the turbines of an airliner.
Nowadays the Falcon can carry a 1500 kg payload of scientific instrumentation and operating personnel. Some instruments are mounted in underwing containers, others are placed below the fuselage. A nose boom is attached for undisturbed turbulence measurements, and air inlets can be used for analyzing the composition of atmospheric air with instrumentation placed inside the cabin. Antennas can be mounted on the fuselage, and special optical windows at the top and the bottom of the cabin are used remote sensing applications with cameras and Lidar systems. One of the cabin windows can be replaced by a special target being transparent for microwaves. For measurements in the far infrared wavelength region the radiometer can be placed in a special pressure vessel mounted instead of a bottom window, in this way any inconvenient window can be omitted completely.
Beside other efforts the Falcon was used for ozone and climate related research, for investigations of the dynamics of frontal systems and other meteorological processes and tropospheric and tropospheric physics and chemistry, for remote sensing of stratospheric trace gases and of earth surface properties. For the recent years the Falcon has been one of the most important DLR major research tools to investigate the effects of emissions from aircraft engines on the atmospheric composition.