It's true — there really are hurricane hunters!
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, known as the Hurricane Hunters of the Air Force Reserve, is the only Department of Defense organization that flies into tropical storms and hurricanes. The crew is based out of Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi, Mississippi and has been operating since 1944.
What they do:
During the hurricane season they provide surveillance of tropical disturbances in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico for the National Hurricane Center.
The aircraft used by the hurricane hunters are equipped with computerized meteorological data-gathering instruments. The aircraft is capable of staying aloft almost 15 hours at an optimum speed of more than 300 mph. An average mission lasts 11 hours and cover almost 3,500 miles.
The hurricane hunters are made of 20 air crews. Each crew is made up of six positions: 2 pilots, 1 flight engineer, 1 navigator, 1 weather officer and 1 dropsonde operator. All are reservists.
It is usually impractical or impossible to operate ground operation stations for weather data in a hurricane. To fill this need, hurricane hunters fly long routes over the ocean to collect and transmit weather observations and atmospheric surroundings. Their job is to determine the precise location, motion, strength and size of the storm. They measure the extent of damaging winds in each sector, the sea-level pressure in the eye, the dew point, the temperature difference inside and outside the eye, and current storm movement. They transmit the information by satellite to the National Hurricane Center.