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Hurricane Hunters - Heroes Fly into the Eye of the Storm

Updated on September 11, 2014

Heroes Fly into the Eye of the Storm in Special Aircraft

As far as I am concerned, the crew of Hurricane Hunter aircraft are unsung heroes of public safety. Without them, we would have far less warning of and information about monster storms that wreak devastation on landfall.

These men and women are beyond brave! And, they do it all in the name of public safety and advancing mankind's scientific knowledge of, and ability to more accurately forecast these incredible weather systems.

Have you ever been on an airline flight that encountered a little turbulance? Now, imagine flying right into the eye of a vicious hurricane, and doing it on purpose. They must have nerves (and stomachs!) of steel!

Image Credit

About Hurricane Hunters

The Pilots and Crew on These Aircraft are Real Heroes

Hurricane Hunters are special aircraft that fly into tropical cyclones. They collect data from inside the weather system, including barometric pressure and wind speed and direction. What they find helps weather forecasters to perform more accurate center tracking, and advise the public of the system's movement and intensity.

Because of the dedicated work of the highly trained crew, who are also often referred to as Hurricane Hunters, forecasting accuracy has increased by as much as 25% over the years. Earlier public warnings of approaching systems have also been made possible by the combined data collected by weather satellites and the folks who fly into the storms.


There are two main squadrons of Hurricane Hunters:

The U.S. Airforce Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, based in Biloxi, Mississippi. They fly WC-130J aircraft.

The NOAA Hurricane Hunters, based at McDill Airforce Base in Tampa, Florida, flying two different types of planes - the NOAA G-IV Gulfstream, and Lockheed WP-3D Orions.

Flying Into Hurricane Irene - Stormy Flight!

See the view from inside the aircraft as it flies through Hurricane Irene, as well as what is going on inside the plane.

Types of Tropical Weather Systems

That Go Into

Hurricane Hunters fly into ALL of the following types of tropical systems:

1 - Areas of "disturbed weather" with potential to develop into a tropical cyclone.

2 - Tropical Depressions with maximum sustained winds of less than 39 mph.

3 - Tropical Storms, with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph

4 - Category 1 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph

5 - Category 2 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 96 to 110 mph

6 - Category 3 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph

7 - Category 4 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 131 to 155 mph

8 - Category 5 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds in excxess of 155 mph

Once something has an identified low level center of circulation, it is a tropical cyclone. This means that, on the above list, all of the weather systems except the first one are tropical cyclones.

Hurricanes of Category 3 and higher are referred to as Major Hurricanes.

Fateful Flight into Hurricane Janet - Stormchasers Who Disappeared in the Line of Duty

Being a hurricane hunter is not without risk. In 1955, an aircraft flew into Hurricane Janet, and was never seen again. This book tells more than their story, though. It also tells a lot about what we have learned about hurricanes. Find out how those brave enough to to iinside these weather monsters have played a big part in gaining that knowledge that has helped us all..

Hurricane Hunter Aircraft on the Ground at Kessler Air Force Base
Hurricane Hunter Aircraft on the Ground at Kessler Air Force Base | Source

These Planes and Their Crews Stay Busy

They Research Inclement Weather Year Round

The Hurricane Hunters got real busy real early in the 2012 season - and from coast to coast, too!

Even before the official start of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season on June 1, the had already flown into Pacific Hurricane Bud off the west coast of Mexico, and Tropical Storm Beryl, off the southeast coast of the United States. It seems hurricanes aren't too good at reading calendars, and sometimes crop up before the start or after the end of the season. (The season runs from June 1 through November 30.)

During the 'off season' of December through May, these folks don't just sit around twiddling their thumbs - or propellers. During the months of November through April, they fly over-water winter storm weather reconnaissance missions.

Katrina's Eyewall from a NOAA P-3

Katrina's Eyewall from a NOAA P-3
Katrina's Eyewall from a NOAA P-3 | Source
Pilot in the cockpit of a Hurricane Hunter plane, getting ready to fly into a storn
Pilot in the cockpit of a Hurricane Hunter plane, getting ready to fly into a storn | Source

Who Flies on Hurricane Hunter Aircraft?

Five or Six Brave Souls

There are five to six crew members on a Hurricane Hunter aircraft for the flights that can last up to 11 or 12 hours, much of that time through turbulence. A TYPICAL CREW:

A pilot

A co-pilot

A navigator

A flight engineer

A dropsonde system operator

An aerial reconnaissance weather officer.

On occasion, though not often, there is a guest aboard, usually a meteorologist or a reporter, a NOAA official, or someone like that.

It sounds dangerous, but the safety record of these flights is astounding, with only one aircraft having been totally lost in over 50 years. One other was severely damaged, but still made it home with all crew safe.

In 2013, there were 13 named storms - fewer than predicted.

Only two of those thirteen strengthened into hurricanes.

What will 2014 bring?

Would You Fly Into the Eye of the Storm? - Would You Ride in on of These Airplanes?

I am fascinated by tropical weather systems. I sometimes wish I had persued a career in Meteorology. It's a little late for that now (I doubt I would enjoy the intense emphasis on calculus at my age.)

I WOULD still love to fly with the Hurricane Hunters - just once. I think I might be able to handle flying into a Category 1 or 2 hurrciane. (MAYBE)

How about you? Would you like to have the experience of going along on one of their flights?

Would You Like to Fly on a Hurricane Hunter Mission?

See results

Photos of Hurricane Hunters

NOAA WP-3D Orion

NOAA WP-3D Orion
NOAA WP-3D Orion | Source

Air Force Lockheed Martin WC-130J

Air Force Lockheed Martin WC-130J
Air Force Lockheed Martin WC-130J | Source

NOAA Gulfstream

NOAA Gulfstream Hurrcane Hunter Airplane
NOAA Gulfstream Hurrcane Hunter Airplane | Source

Hurricane Hunter Video - Collecting Valuable Meteorological Information

This is an excellent informational video on what kind of data is collected by these flying meteorologists when they go into harm's way for us, what that data means, and why it is so important.


About Hurricane Hunters

for kids

Riders on the Storm

For younger readers, books about this fascinating topic are far from dull! Many youngsters are fascinated will aircraft of all types. The specially equipped planes and the brave crews who fly in them may be something they'd really like to learn more about In the pages of Hurriane Hunters: Riders on the Storm, children can find out what it's like to go along on a real mission into a real tropical cyclone.

For Younger Children

Hurricane Hunters!: Riders on the Storm
Hurricane Hunters!: Riders on the Storm

For Pre-school through Second Grade. Lots of bright pictures. Follows a mission from start to finish.


Hurricane Hunter and Other Wild Science Career Choices

Many teens are starting to think seriously about their future. What career path will they take It may be worth mentioning here that meteorology is a field in which more and more scientists will be needed in the coming yers.

Those with the appropriate skills and education will be in high demand. There's a wide range of opportunity, from the military, to the private sector, to The Weather Channel, and, of course, the National Hurricane Center, for qualified candidates to consider.

For Teenagers

Storm Scientist: Careers Chasing Severe Weather (Wild Science Careers)
Storm Scientist: Careers Chasing Severe Weather (Wild Science Careers)

Teenagers would like to read about hurricane hunters, and other storm chasers, too. Is your child interested in science? Or would you like for them to be? Maybe this book about "wild science careers" would peak their interest.


Thank You



August 19 is

National Aviation Day

Be sure to thank a

Hurricane Hunter!

The Guestbook is: OPEN

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    • childsponsorship profile image

      childsponsorship 3 years ago

      Thanks to the dedicated work of the hurricane hunters. Nice lens, very interesting.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 5 years ago

      Well done from one Florida weather watcher to another! :)

    • happy-birthday profile image

      Birthday Wishes 5 years ago from Here

      Such a nice way to remember people that those Hurricane Hunters risk their lives for us. Amazing lens!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I think the Hurrican Hunters are out of their minds, but I'm glad they're out there doing the job. Brave, brave people!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I am constantly astonished by what some people do for a living, even more so by the fact that many of them actually enjoy it, gasp! I cannot imagine chasing a hurricane or tornado...crazy business.

    • SquidooPower profile image

      SquidooPower 6 years ago

      These people are nuts but I'd still like to fly with them!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      These are brave and confident people who are not afraid to risk their lives.

    • profile image

      termit_bronx 6 years ago

      They are brave and totally crazy.

    • EdTecher profile image

      Heidi Reina 6 years ago from USA

      I had a brief career as a hurricane hunter dropsonde systems operator many years ago. What an awesome sight and heart-stopping feeling as you head into the eye! Still an experience I wouldn't trade for anything.

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      Fascinating - these crews are a lot braver than I am!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 6 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Wow! This is really interesting. Thank you to the hurricane crews!

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      @anonymous: Yes, those of us who live in hurricane country owe them a lot, but most of us seldom give them a thought. I try to at least be aware of when one of their flights is in the air. They are something else!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Whew, cna't imagine being a hurricane hunter, definitely these people are unsung heroes! Thank you for honoring them here....and thanks to them all!

    • profile image

      beannie64 6 years ago

      Very interesting! Didn't know much about this til now.