People go out of their way to avoid being caught in the path of a violent hurricane, but these aviators actually seek out the storms – and fly straight into them.
Who are these “Hurricane Hunters” and why do they do what they do?
Who they are: The Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, a specially trained unit based out of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.
The crew: Minimum crew of five, including pilot, co-pilot, navigator, weather officer and loadmaster.
The aircraft: 10 Lockheed Martin WC-130J (Super Hercules) aircraft equipped with palletized meteorological data-gathering instruments. There are only 12 planes in the world allowed to fly into hurricanes (the other two are flown by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)).
Where they fly: The WC-130J penetrates hurricanes at an altitude of 10,000 feet to collect meteorological data in the storm’s vortex, or eye. The aircraft flies a radius of about 100 miles from the vortex to collect detailed data about the tropical cyclone’s structure.
Territory covered: Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, eastern and central Pacific Ocean
Data collected: Helps determine the storm’s center and analyze atmospheric conditions such as pressure, temperature, dew point, wind speed, turbulence, icing, visibility, cloud types and amounts, and rainfall rates.
So, why do they do it? The data is relayed to the National Hurricane Center, increasing the accuracy of hurricane predictions and warnings by as much as 30 percent.
Thanks, 53rd WRS – Angel MedFlight salutes you!