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53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron: Wikis

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53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron
Hurricane Hunters.png
53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Emblem
Active 1944-Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Squadron
Role Weather Reconnaissance
Garrison/HQ Keesler Air Force Base
Nickname Hurricane Hunters

The 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, also known by the nickname, Hurricane Hunters, flies aircraft into tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean for the specific purpose of directly measuring weather data in and around those storms. Before artificial satellites were used to find storms, the 53d along with other hurricane searching units flew routine weather reconnaissance tracks to detect formation of tropical cyclones. Although satellite data has revolutionized weather forecasters' ability to detect early signs of tropical cyclones before they form, there are still many important tasks they are not suited for. Satellites cannot determine the interior barometric pressure of a hurricane, nor provide accurate wind speed information. The Hurricane Hunters of the Air Force Reserve are distinct from the NOAA Hurricane Hunters, based at the Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill AFB, in Tampa, Florida using WP-3D Orion and Gulfstream IV-SP aircraft for this mission.

Contents

Mission

To recruit, organize and train assigned personnel to perform aerial weather reconnaissance.

History

Origins

The 1943 Surprise Hurricane, which struck Houston, Texas during World War II, marked the first intentional meteorological flight into a hurricane. It started with a bet.

That summer, British pilots were being trained in instrument flying at Bryan Field. When they saw that the Americans were evacuating their AT-6 Texan trainers in the face of the storm, they began questioning the construction of the aircraft. Lead instructor Colonel Joe Duckworth took one of the trainers out, and flew it straight into the eye of the storm. After he returned safely with navigator Lt. Ralph O'Hair, the base's weather officer, Lt. William Jones-Burdick, took over the navigator's seat and Duckworth flew into the storm a second time.

This flight showed that hurricane reconnaissance flights were possible, and further flights continued on an irregular basis. In 1946, the moniker “Hurricane Hunters” was first used, and the Air Force and now Air Force Reserve have used it ever since.

53d WRS

WC-130H Hercules in flight
The WC-130J Hercules

The 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as the “Hurricane Hunters, flies missions into hurricanes and weather systems for research purposes and observation. Although satellite data has revolutionized weather forecasters' ability to detect early signs of tropical cyclones before they form, there are still many important tasks this data is not suitable for. Satellites cannot determine the interior barometric pressure of a hurricane, nor provide accurate wind speed information. These data are needed to accurately predict hurricane development and movement.

Because satellites cannot collect the data and ships are too slow and vulnerable, the only viable way to collect this information is with aircraft. The 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” flies instrumented Lockheed Martin WC-130J Hercules aircraft into storms to collect the required meteorological data. The area of responsibility for the “Hurricane Hunters” is midway through the Atlantic Ocean to the Hawaiian Islands. The Hurricane Hunters have also been tasked to fly into typhoons in the Pacific Ocean on occasion, as well as gather data in winter storms.

Hurricane Katrina

The landfall of Hurricane Katrina on 29 August 2005 caused devastating damage to Keesler Air Force Base, home base of the 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. The equipment and personnel of the squadron were flying out of Dobbins Air Reserve Base near Atlanta. Despite heavy losses, the squadron never missed a tasked mission from the National Hurricane Center. The 53d has since returned to Keesler and is now once again flying weather reconnaissance missions from the base.

Aircraft Operated

WC 130H

See also

References

External links


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