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Bloggers Flight with the Hurricane Hunters

All Posts  May 20 2009
 — By White Rose

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For the first time ever in the history of the Air Force, bloggers were recognized for their impact on public opinion and were invited to their very own Bloggers Flight with the Reserve 403rd Hurricane Hunters. What a great honor is was to be included in this flight with these brave Airmen and other bloggers that are helping to change the face of how the public gets it news and learns about the world they live in. McQ from Black Five was there and it was an honor to meet this Vietnam Veteran and fellow Blogger.

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The Hurricane Hunters started on a dare in 1944 when two Army Air Corp pilots challenged each other to fly through a Hurricane. On July 27, 1943, Maj. Joe Duckworth flew a propeller-driven, single-engine North American AT-6 “Texan” trainer into the eye of a hurricane. He then flew twice more into the eye of that storm that say, once with a navigator and again with a weather officer. These are considered to be the first airborne attempts to obtain data for use in plotting the position of a tropical cyclone as it approached land. Duckworth’s pioneering efforts paved the way for further flights into tropical cyclones.

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Yesterdays flight was a training mission out over the Gulf of Mexico on a WC-103J. This plane is a C-130J transport configured with palletized weather instrumentation for penetration of tropical disturbances and storms, hurricanes and winter storms to obtain data on movement, size and intensity. If you have never been in one of these planes it is quite amazing. They are very different than commercial planes.

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For instance, the seating. The seat is comprised of nylon straps that form a mesh seat and back. They are not the most comfortable seat in the world for a plane, but I have to say, the ones on this plane were lots better than on the C103 that I flew on in Iraq. It is also very noisy inside the plane and we all wore ear plugs. As McQ and Talked we had to lean toward each other to make out what was being said. And as always there are a little humor in the mix. McQ told me tat he kept hearing the theme song from Gilligan’s Island going over and over in is head. Especially the part about going out for a 3 hours tour! LOL!

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The plane is manned by a five person crew (pilot, co-pilot, a navigator, aerial reconnaissance weather officer, and weather reconnaissance loadmaster). Our crew yesterday was a well experienced one. Most of them have been flying with the Hurricane Hunters for 10 to 27 years, with LTC Val Hendry as the most experienced. She has been flying with the Hurricane Hunters since 1982.

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 Whoo Hoo! That is what came out of my mouth as we took off and I slid in my seat toward the back of the plane. This bird is powerful! It has 4 Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprops for more than 4,700 horsepower each engine. It can reach speeds of 417 mph. It is capable of staying in the air almost 18 hours at an cruise speed of more than 300 mph. An average weather reconnaissance mission lasts 11 hours and covers almost 3,500 miles.

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The crew collects and reports weather data as often as every minute. LCT Hendry told me that when she started back in 1982 that they had to do all the calculations with a calculator and send them to the National Hurricane Center via UHF radio. Today between the senors mounted to the wings of the plane like the Stepped-Frequency Microwave Radiometer  and the GPS Dropsonde Windfinding System, they get data every 30 seconds and transmit to the the Center via satellite. Quite a big improvement over the years I would say.

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The information collected by all this great technology had unproved the advance warning of hurricanes by 25% to 30%. Decreasing the evacuation area saves around 1 million dollars per coastal mile to the Local, State and Federal government, not to mention the stress and money saved by the residents themselves.

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We were also allowed to enter the cockpit and talk with the pilot and co-pilot. What a view that was! We only had 10 minutes so I didn’t get much information from them. But when I get to go on the next mission I will try to make sure I get a chance to talk to them more.

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I have to say that I was very impressed with the plane, the crew and the equipment. Living just a mer 40 miles north of the Mississippi  Gulf Coast, Hurricanes are a personal concern for me. My brother was living in Gautier, MS when Katrina hit in 2005. He was lucky and didn’t loose anything like many others did. This far off the coast line I have to worry more about high winds, tornado’s, and power outages.

The information I learned yesterday helps ease my mind for this coming Hurricane season. I know that we have the very best up there looking out over us and gathering the information needed to keep us safe from the next BIG hurricane.

I look forward to flying with these outstanding men and women again during a big storm this season. And as always, I will blog about it, show ya pictures, and let ya know if I get he crap scared out of me!

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Just so you know that these guys take their Job, Duty and Service seriously, MSGT Randy Bynon is also one of the loggers on Weather Underground. You can find his blog about our trip here.

Also, they do have a bit of fun from time to time. MAJ Chad Gibson is an Elvis impersonator. You can see him at the Hard Rock in Biloxi, MS June 14th.

The public can keep up with news about the 403rd Wing via Facebook Groups listed under ‘403rd Wing’, ‘AF Reserve Hurricane Hunters’, ‘815th Flying Jennies’ and ‘41st APS’. In addition, full-resolution photos can be found under the ‘Hurricane Hunters,’ ‘403rd Wing,’ and the ‘Flying Jennies’ groups at www.flickr.com. A profile of the 403rd Wing can also be found at www.Linkedin.com.

Anyone can also receive instant updates about the 403rd Wing through www.twitter.com; search for 403rd Public Affairs or username, 403PA.

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