Photo of Stephanie Raper

Stephanie Raper
In the Loop Editor


NNDCC Hurricane Hunters

Cadets from Grenada Navy National Defense Cadet Corps recently traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi to fly with the United States Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters. The Air Force Reserve 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the world's only operational military weather reconnaissance unit, is based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. The unit became known as "hurricane hunters" in 1946.

These brave airmen and women fly weather missions in an area midway through the Atlantic Ocean to the Hawaiian Islands and have on occasion, flown into typhoons in the Pacific Ocean to gather data from winter storms.

The 53d WRS Hurricane Hunters operate ten Lockheed WC-130J aircraft, which fly directly into hurricanes, typically penetrating the eye of the hurricane several times per mission at altitudes between 500 feet (150 m) and 10,000 feet (3,000 m). Before satellites were used to locate storms, military aircraft routinely flew weather reconnaissance patterns to detect formation of tropical cyclones. Today, satellites have revolutionized the ability of weather forecasters to detect signs of such cyclones before they form. Satellites, however, cannot determine the interior barometric pressure of a hurricane nor provide accurate wind speed information — data needed to accurately predict hurricane development and movement – thus preserving the need for the Hurricane Hunters.

Approximately 20 cadets from the GHS unit took advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to fly with the Hurricane Hunters. Prior to the expedition, the cadets met with Air Force pilots and crew for a question and answer session followed by a mission briefing to outline the operation. At the briefing cadets learned about the plane on which they would fly, the task of the unit, and what equipment would be used during the trip.

Before boarding the plane, cadets toured the flight line and took pictures with one of the C130J's, the aircraft used by the Hurricane Hunters. Once onboard, three lucky cadets secured the opportunity to sit in the cockpit with the pilots during takeoff, while another three cadets took advantage of the seats during the landing. During the flight, cadets were encouraged to unbuckle their seatbelts, explore the plane, and ask questions. Several cadets visited the cockpit, talked with the pilots and even steered the plane! The cadets would like to thank Captain John Lewis DC USN (ret) Bureau Director, JROTC of the Mississippi Department of Education, for helping arrange this unique experience. The trip created memories the cadets will treasure for a lifetime.

***Thanks to Chief Reese Foreman for contributing this information.

Student in Cockpit

Grenada students with plane