GEMA/HS Dispatch Sept 2018 - Page 7

Hurricane Hunter is no easy task. “We take pilots who are perfectly capable C-130 pilots … but the one thing they’ve been taught throughout their entire careers is ‘don’t go near the thunderstorms,’” said Warren Madden, CARCAH meteorologist and former aerial reconnaissance weather officer with the 53rd WRS. “We have to train these people not only how to go near them, but go right through them and do it safely.” The 53rd Squadron is the only operational military unit in the world flying weather reconnaissance on a routine basis, so training takes place mostly in house and in flight. When these Hurricane Hunters aren’t flying missions, they’re able to organize and conduct training and exercise flights based on their own known knowledge gaps and cater them specifically to their needs, which they’ve been working to assess since the squadron’s official creation in 1944. Crew members come from diverse backgrounds, but undergo extensive, regular training as part of the 53rd Squadron. Courtesy of AF Reserve Hurricane Hunters Hurricane Hunters fly specially outfitted aircraft into and around threatening weather developments. Photo courtesy of AF Reserve Hurricane Hunters Since then, the squadron has grown in capability to operate 24 hours a day, seven day a week. Once the crew, most of which are former active duty military, gets word that a storm needs to be looked at, they start planning their trip. The 53rd WRS has a remarkably large range of responsibility, covering storms over water as far east as the Leeward and Windward Islands, the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, up the Atlantic Coast, in addition to the West Coast of Mexico toward Hawaii. Within these areas, the squadron will inspect not only developing tropical weather, but, more rarely, winter storms as well. These investigatory missions can extend to more than 12 hours, and typically include about four penetrations of the center of the storm in a repeating “x” pattern, with trips to the outer edges of the storm, or “legs,” extending for about 100 – 115 miles. Throughout this time, crew members are DISPATCH | 7