WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane hunters program began in the 1960s, no two women had piloted an NOAA plane together.
That changed Sunday.
Rebecca Waddington and Kristie Twining, who were guests via Skype on WECT's News Now Thursday afternoon, became the first all-female hurricane hunter flight crew when they flew toward Hurricane Hector in Hawaii.
"I think it surprised us a little bit," Waddington said of the attention the pair has received. "Our first flight out toward Hurricane Hector, we were so focused on the mission that we didn't even recognize that it was a historic flight until one of our science crew members brought it up to us toward the end of the flight. We thought, 'That's neat. That's really cool.' But our main focus was on the mission at hand."
As more people recognized the importance of the flight, Waddington and Twining began to realize the effect it could have on not only future female pilots, but also the NOAA's work.
Hurricane hunters use high-altitude airplanes to fly above and around hurricanes, using instruments to sample the air around and in front of the storms to help weather forecasters accurately predict the storm's path.
"It's really important, that data," Twining said. "That's primarily what we're doing with this high-altitude jet."
Waddington has been flying for eight years, but the Hawaii mission was her first hurricane flight. Twining has 16 years of NOAA flying experience under her belt and has been an NOAA Corps officer for 19 years.
"They need to know the sky is not their limit and that they can achieve anything," Twining said of girls who hope to grow up to be pilots. "Anybody that has a dream and encouraging them to follow that dream is important."