We have five different flying jobs at the Hurricane
Hunters. ALL jobs are part of the Air Force
Reserve. Half of the positions are part-time
(traditional reservists), and half are full-time (Air Reserve
Technicians). We have 40 pilots, 20 each of navigators, aerial
reconnaissance weather officers, and weather loadmasters. In
addition, we have numerous support personnel that work in various
fields such as flight administration, life support, and various
maintenance specialties; without these folks we would never get
Let’s take a closer look at the duties of each one of these
Every mission requires two pilots (one is designated the aircraft
commander (AC) and the other is the co-pilot) and they are the
guys/gals that fly the airplane. The AC, is in charge of all the
other crewmembers, and makes sure the mission is done safely and on
time. The pilots of the 53WRS are trained to do what every pilot is
trained NOT to do, fly into weather. They earn their paycheck
getting us through a storm safely.
All weather missions require a navigator (nav) who is
responsible for preparing a navigational flight plan, which
includes the route, headings, and altitudes to be flown,
checkpoints, enroute times, and estimated fuel consumption. The
nav prepares charts for the flight, and inspects his/her
navigational equipment prior to flight. During flight, the nav
uses the equipment (inertial, global positioning satellite, and
radios) to determine where the aircraft is, and uses radar to
avoid severe weather.
Reconnaissance Weather Officer:
The weather officer acts as the Flight Director in the storm environment. They continuously monitor atmospheric data that is ingested from the aircraft sensors every second. They check this data for accuracy and then use the information to guide the crew right to center of a storm where they direct a “sonde” release and take observations that they disseminate through satellite communications directly to the National Hurricane Center.
| Weather Loadmaster/Dropsonde Systems
The "load" actually has two jobs on the WC-130. They are a
Loadmaster, which requires making sure everything is loaded and
tied down properly in the cargo compartment, as well as scanning
the exterior of the airplane during engine start, and monitoring
the health of the plane during the flight by inspecting the
engines and other aircraft systems. They can be tasked for
several missions, in addition to weather reconnaissance,
such as aero medical or transportation. During a weather mission
they are responsible for collecting
|vertical weather profile data.
They do this by using an instrument called a dropsonde which is
a special weather instrument which acts similar to a weather
balloon (except it falls). The Dropsonde Operator drops a sonde
each time we go through the eye of the storm, plus in other
areas of interesting weather.
Want to know how to become a Hurricane Hunter? Find out here!