Forecasting the movement and strength of hurricanes and tropical storms is quite tricky but of prime importance to public safety and protection of property.
Now that tropical storms are increasing hurricane hunter recon missions are also on the increase.
The proven tried and true standard. The workhorse of hurricane hunter force is the C-130J.
The hurricane hunter fleet is comprised of airplanes manufactured by Lockheed Martin at a cost of up $30 million per plane. Frank Amadeo is wing commander of this outfit and was kind enough to give me a personal tour of the aircraft.
"Alright so this is the WC-130J. We have ten hurricane aircraft in the United States and they are all flown out of Keesler Air Force Base Mississippi, and they are flown by reservist. Air force reservist so this is a part-time job for about half of my crews and the other full-time... so the C-130 has been around for a long time. The venerable C-130 hasn't changed much since 1954. This is the C-130J which is our newest airplane built in 1997 which a quite a few years old but still new by today's standard in the air force. You'll notice the inside looks about like any C-130 you'll walk into. We have troop doors we can throw paratroopers out. We have the ramp in door where we can do air drop. We can load big pieces of equipment. We have litter stanchions we can actually move patients. We can move troops and we can move cargo. But up front here we have added some equipment for weather reconnaissance... So, up here we have added two positions. The position on the right is where our dropsonde and load master sits. On the left is where our weather officer sits. So, our weather officer is a meteorologist by training. The way things work in flight is that one of the pieces of equipment that we launch is through this drop tube here. We will drop this drop sonde and we will typically enter the hurricane at 10,000 feet and this will fall at about 2500 feet per minute so in four minutes it will hit the surface of the water. What it gives us is temperature, pressure and winds. That person's job is to take that information and compile it send it to the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service will take that data and other data we send from this airplane. They will mail that data with other computer models they have and that improves the accuracy of the storm. And so the significance of our mission is that we are providing data to update the model for the National Hurricane Center. When we fly into the hurricane the track models are updated or mare accurate by about 30 percent. Here is the significance of that. If I don't have that information 24 or 48 hours where that hurricane is gonna hit. Every mile of coastline that does not have to be evacuated in the United States saves the taxpayer $250,000 to $1,000,000 so the data we provide is actually very critical," Amadeo said.
"We have a glass cockpit multi-function displays. Ordinarily flown by just two pilots and a load master. The difference between a 130J and W-130j is we've added the navigator position for added safety and we've also added the weather officer position in the back and the two palette positions"
"Well there we have a toilet in the back kinda like a marine toilet because these are 13 hour missions sometimes."
The Dropsonde Transmitters are "expendable devices" which means once they fall into the ocean they are not retrieved. About a dozen such dropsones or more are used per mission at a cost of around $400 each.
View original article at KTBS.com
Edited by casey