NOAA and Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Aircraft share tarmac at Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport (Photo: WFO Mobile, Ala.)
(May 12, 2010) - In a rare joint appearance, NOAA and Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft recently shared the tarmac at the Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport. It was during the fourth stopover of the five-day 2010 Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour.
During the Pensacola, Fla. stop, a Lockheed-Martin WC-130J, from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Miss., parked next to a WP-3D Orion from NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill AFB, Fla.
While overall tasks vary, crews from both organizations share a common mission of flying into hurricanes to collect data on air pressure, humidity, temperature and wind speed and direction. The data is then sent to the National Hurricane Center via satellite communication. NOAA pilots fly the P-3s into hurricanes at low altitudes (1,500-10,000 ft.) to collect research-mission data critical for computer models that predict hurricane intensity and landfall.
This information is used differently than the hurricane reconnaissance information provided by U.S. Air Force Reserves WC-130s. However, information from both types of flights directly contributes to the safety of Americans living along the vulnerable Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Along with NOAA National Weather Service personnel, both Air Force Reserve and NOAA crew members were on hand to provide hurricane awareness information, answer questions and conduct tours of the aircraft for visiting students, local officials, the general public and the media.
Each year, the Hurricane Awareness Tours alternate between the Gulf Coast and the East Coast. This year's Gulf Coast tour began in Brownsville, Texas on April 26 and ended in Sarasota, Fla. on April 30.
NOAA and Air Force Reserve crews pose with NWS personnel and local emergency management officials in front of NOAA Hurricane Hunter (Photo: WFO Mobile, Ala.)