Hurricane Hunters depart for Hawaii to fly storms

Three WC-103J and one C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 403rd Wing departed Keesler Air Force Base today for Hawaii to provide weather reconnaissance support for Tropical Storms Erick and Flossie.

The three weather crews, assigned to the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, are schedule to start flying missions Wednesday, said Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot. The tactical airlift crew, assigned to the 815th Airlift Squadron, is carrying extra cargo for the mission, he added.

According to the National Hurricane Center website, the environment of Tropical Storm Erick is favorable for intensification and expected to become a hurricane at any time, with an increase to a Category 3 storm within two days.

Once the Hurricane Hunters arrive in Hawaii, they will begin flying “fix” missions. During a fix mission, the aircraft collects weather data such as temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, and surface pressure. Aircrews fly through the eye of a storm four to six times to locate the low-pressure center and circulation of the storm. During each pass through the eye, they release a dropsonde, which collects weather data on its descent to the ocean surface, specifically gathering data on the surface winds and pressure.

Due to a lack of radar and weather balloons availability over the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the 53rd WRS flies into the storms, gathers the data, and provides this data to the NHC to assist them with their forecasts and storm warnings by transmitting the information gathered via satellite communication every 10 minutes.

The 53rd WRS’s operations area ranges from the 55 longitude line in the Atlantic to the International Dateline in the Pacific. They also support 24-hour a day continuous operations with the ability to fly up to three storms simultaneously and with a response time of 16 hours.

“We’re ready to fly, collect data and pass the information on to the folks that need it,” said Dunn “This is our deployment, this is what we train for.”