Hurricane Hunters Association
Aircrews that fly into tropical cyclones to collect weather data are referred to as hurricane hunters, typhoon hunters, or cyclone hunters. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the United States Air Force Reserve and the Hurricane Hunters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are the organizations in the United States that perform these missions. Other Air Force, Navy, and NOAA units have also flown similar missions. These operations are also flown by other organizations, such Government Flying Service Hong Kong.
On the basis of a wager, a pilot-trainer took off into a Category 1 hurricane in Galveston, Texas, in 1943, marking the first crewed flight into a hurricane.
Military aircraft used to fly routine weather reconnaissance flights to see the emergence of tropical cyclones in the past, before satellites were used to locate tropical storms. Modern satellites have made it easier for meteorologists to spot cyclones before they develop, but only aircraft can measure a hurricane’s interior barometric pressure and provide precise wind speed data, which are essential for accurately predicting a hurricane’s development and movement.
A Brief History
An instrumented Lockheed U-2 flown in Hurricane Ginny during the 1963 Atlantic hurricane season is one of the types of aircraft that have been used to explore storms. A-20 Havoc, 1944; B-24, 1944–1945; B-17, 1945–1947; B-25, 1946–1947; and B-29, 1946–1947 are some other examples. WB-29, 1951–1956; WB–50, 1956–1963; WB–47, 1963–1969; WC–121N, 1954–1973; WC–130A–H, 1965–2012.
Captain W. L. Farnsworth of the Galveston Commercial Association proposed the notion of airplane surveillance of hurricane storm tracks in the early 1930s. The “storm patrol bill” was supported by the US Weather Bureau and was approved on June 15, 1936, by the US Senate and US House of Representatives.
Surprise Hurricane of 1943
The 1943 Surprise Hurricane in Houston, Texas, was the first deliberate meteorological fly into a hurricane, and it occurred during World War II. It all began with a wager.
At Bryan Field that summer, British pilots were receiving instrument flying training. They started questioning the design of the aircraft when they noticed that the Americans were evacuating their AT-6 Texan trainers in the face of the storm. One of the trainers was flown directly into the storm’s eye by lead instructor Colonel Joe Duckworth. Lt. William Jones-Burdick, the base’s weather officer, took up the navigator’s seat when they safely returned with navigator Lt. Ralph O’Hair, and Duckworth then made another flight into the storm.
This mission demonstrated the feasibility of conducting storm reconnaissance flights, and other flights occasionally followed. The term “Hurricane Hunters” was first used in 1946, and since then, both the Air Force and the Air Force Reserve have used it.
In 1974, a VW-4 Squadron Lockheed WP-3A Orion weather reconnaissance aircraft was stationed at its base in NAS Jacksonville, Florida.
The seventh U.S. Navy squadron devoted to weather reconnaissance was VW-4 / WEARECORON FOUR Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Four, also known as the “Hurricane Hunters”. Although they used a variety of aircraft, the WC-121N “Willy Victor” was the model that was most frequently connected with entering the “eye of the storm.” WC-121s were used by the squadron between late 1954 and 1972. VW-4 lost one airplane and its crew to Hurricane Janet’s penetration and another to severe storm damage, but the severely damaged Willy Victor (MH-1) managed to bring her crew home despite never flying again. VW-4 ran the turbine-propeller Lockheed WP-3A Orion between 1973 and 1975.
The 53rd WRS was based at Keesler Air Force Base, which was damaged after Hurricane Katrina made landfall there on August 29, 2005. The squadron’s personnel and equipment were taking out from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in the Atlanta area. The squadron never missed a mission from the National Hurricane Center despite losses to heavy equipment. Since then, the 53rd has come back to Keesler.