direct link to video
NOAA's Hurricane Hunters are two Lockheed WP-3D Orions, known as “Miss Piggy” and “Kermit” and a Gulfstream IV-SP (G-IV) based in Tampa FL at the NOAA’s Aircraft Operation Center on the Mac Dill Air Force Base.
|Obtained on May 31, 2015 from http://www.noaa.gov/features/03_protecting/hurricanehunterstory_2012.html|
Recall that the C-130s of the US Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron fly hurricane reconnaissance missions. NOAA's two WP-3D does some hurricane reconnaissance missions but their primary mission during the hurricane season is hurricane research. The WP-3D Orions have four turbo prop engines and are equipped with special weather equipment. According to NOAA’s information page on the Lockheed WP-3D Orion, a typical crew consists of “2 Pilots, Flight Engineer, Navigator, Flight Director (meteorologist), 2 or 3 Engineering/Electronic specialists, Radio/Avionics specialist, and up to 12 Scientist or Media personnel”, this same link has more specs and a listing of the special weather equipment on the WP-3D.
|The red mission badges represent the Hurricanes (name and year) she flew. The flags are the countries she has been to.|
Obtained on May 31, 2015 from http://www.noaa.gov/features/03_protecting/hurricanehunterstory_2012.html (Note: link was active at time I obtained this photo, no longer active link as of 9/10/2016)
NOAA’s webpage on the Gulfstream IV-SP G-IV provides specs on this aircraft, equipment, and a listing of the crew positions. On a typical hurricane mission NOAA’s G-IV flies with a crew of nine: 2 pilots, 1 flight engineer/mechanic, 1 flight meteorologist (flight director), 1 High Attitude Profiling System (HAPS) system operator and 3 Engineering Technicians/Dropwindesonde (Sonde) system operators.
My understanding is that one of NOAA’s WP-3D and the Gulfstream IV-SP pair up while flying a hurricane mission. The G-IV will fly over the hurricane at a high altitude (the ceiling of the G-IV is 45,000 ft) while the WP-3D will penetrate the hurricane at an altitude of anwhere from 1,500 to 10,000 feet. The WP-3D will make multiple penetrations of the hurricane eye. Hurricane missions are of long duration, lasting for up to eight to nine hours. You might be interested in reading a nice short description of NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters that may be found here.
Part 2 (June 3): From NOAA about the WP-3D, dropsondes, and the G-IV
Part 3 (June 5): A little more about the WP-3D Hurricane Hunter mission
Part 4 (June 8): more pictures and videos of NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters
Part 5 (June 10): A small taste of how the NHC uses Hurricane Hunter aircraft data
Part 6 (June 12): NOAA's WP-3Ds undergoing major overhaul
June 12, 2015. Now that I know a little more about Hurricane Hunters (from NOAA and the USAF Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron), I do plan on trying to learn even more about what these magnificent aircraft and their crew do as they fly into hurricanes. As I learn more I'll report back here.
September 10, 2016 Outdated link on page removed and other links updated
Thank-you Hurricane Hunters!!