Major Devon Meister of the United States Air Force says a comming misconception is that pilots fly over a hurricane. Instead pilots fly directly through the storm at a reduced rate of speed. (Source: WECT)
Students prepare to board and tour NOAA's G-IV aircraft. (Source: WECT)
A crew member from the United States Air Force quizzes children before they begin their tour of the WC-130J (Source: WECT)
A NOAA pilot shows children the tools used to collect data from the air during a hurricane (Source: WECT)
RALEIGH, NC (WECT) -
Imagine flying an airplane through a hurricane. Sounds like a suicide mission, doesn't it?
That's the reality for a crew of brave men and women from the National Hurricane Center and the United States Air Force nicknamed the "Hurricane Hunters."
They take to the skies during these dangerous storms to get real-time measurements and other important data that help forecasters better track their movements.
Hundreds of kids, members of the media, and the public gathered at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in May to meet these so-called hurricane hunters.
Rather than brave the stormy skies, they took to the sunny tarmac to get an up-close and personal tour of NOAA’s G-IV aircraft and a U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130J “Hurricane Hunter” plane.
Major Devon Meister has been a part of the hurricane hunting mission for five years. She maintains she knows that she’s getting into-- despite the danger-- and equates the sensation to an experience millions on the ground are familiar with.
"It's essentially like, going through a car wash, and a roller coaster at the same time,” Meister explained. “It can be very bumpy, there's precipitation all the time, there's hail if we're flying through a thunderstorm, so it can get dicey."
This information ultimately helps to better track and predict the paths of future storms.
Inside the plane, each child took turns walking the narrow paths and navigating the tight spaces.
"That's a lot of buttons," remarked one child, touring the WC-130J cockpit. Without missing a beat, Major Meister reassured her, "They teach you how to work them [the buttons] one at a time."
The visit was a part of the 2017 NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour, which coincides with National Hurricane Preparedness Week.