Friday, June 12, 2015

NOAA's WP-3Ds undergoing major overhaul (6 of 6)

As I was scouring the doing my background research gathering information about NOAA's Hurricane Hunting aircraft I did various internet searches. Sometimes I do such searches and I luck out and find some good reliable information that I was not looking for. Such was the case a couple of weeks when I found a media report dated August 2014 from the Tampa (FL) Tribune reporting that both of NOAA's WP-3D Orion Hurricane Hunters will be getting major overhauls over the next couple of years. As some of you may already know, the US Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron (with their 10 C130-J Hurricane Hunters) does most of the reconnaissance work of flying into hurricanes and gathering data on the hurricanes.

Back to the overhaul, the Tampa Tribune reported on August 14, 2014 (and I later found a few other references from other media outlets) that the $35 million overhaul will include new wings, refurbished engines, radar upgrades and new avionics. Only one WP-3D will be out of commission at one time, leaving one in service (here is an excerpt from Harold Altman's August 14, 2014 article in the Tampa Tribune:
Aside from new, nearly 100-foot-long wings, the planes, which have each flown more than 10,000 hours a piece and into more than 80 hurricanes each, will be getting refurbished engines and upgraded radar and avionics, says McFadden (Jim McFadden is NOAA's chief of operations at MacDill Air Force Base where NOAA has its Aircraft Operations Center) 
The upgraded tail Doppler radar will have higher resolution data than the current system, while the lower fuselage will have better video processors. The combination will allow the planes to provide quality data, says McFadden. 
'The goal is to keep these planes flying for another 15 to 20 years,'  he says.
Before writing this article, I did another more focused internet search and came across a more current report on the overhaul of NOAA's WP-3D Orions reported on May 26, 2015 report on Bay News 9 (the article is by Tamara Lush of the Associated Press). Lush reports on the installation of the refurbished engines in "Miss Piggy" with photos. Meanwhile "Kermit" is getting new wings at at a Naval Station in Jacksonville. So, "Miss Piggy" will be flying this year (2015) while "Kermit" gets his new wings and next year (2016) it is "Miss Piggy's turn to get new wings.


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.

Septeber 10, 2016: updated outdated links

Other articles in this series:
Part 1 (June 1): Hurricane Hunters: Introduction
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

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