NOAA Hurricane Hunter Gulfstream IV
High Altitude Sampling Mission
August 26, 2005 by Jim Edds
I was aboard this critical Hurricane Katrina sampling flight to gather
atmospheric data for the model runs. Already Hurricane Katrina was
not behaving as the NHC forecasted so this mission was very important.
Katrina had moved SW across Florida and the net result was more time over
warm water. The forecast was shaping up to be ominous as history
would show. The NOAA G4 jet actually never gets close to the core of
a hurricane. Its mission is to fly 9 hours around the hurricane and
measure the steering currents. All that data is fed into the
computers to yield a more reliable forecast track. This was a
mission of a lifetime for me and I relished every minute of this sweet
ride. Paul Flaherty, the flight director, pulled up the doppler
radar image of Katrina. We had an onboard satellite link to the
internet in addition to our aircraft radar. Wow, Katrina was very
organized and a big feeder band was hammering Key West, Florida, my neck of
The main task was to make sure all the dropsondes were functionally properly after they were dropped out the back of the airplane. The pilots had a flight profile programmed into the auto pilot, complete with all the turns. The mission specialists made some deviations to the scheduled drops if a dropsonde didn't function properly. It was important that we get it right on this mission because Katrina was spinning up into a monster.
I racked up some big time Hurricane Hunter frequent flyer miles on this trip. The ride was very smooth since we didn't get to close to rotational winds of Katrina. My next ride in the NOAA P3 was to be completely different however.