Retrofited planes fly into U.S. East Coast storms
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 15 August, 2014 - A pair of aging airplanes that have flown into more than 100 hurricanes to provide data for U.S. meteorologists are receiving a retrofit this month that will leave just one available to fly when storms threaten the East Coast. Work on the two so-called hurricane hunters has been staggered over multiple years, ensuring one plane is always available to track a storm's intensity and path, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which operates the Florida-based planes.
The retrofit comes at the peak of hurricane season, after the agency last week predicted fewer storms than normal would affect the Atlantic region for the rest of the year.
Without $35 million in upgrades, the planes would be obsolete by 2019. The enhancements extend their lifespan to 2030 and improve fuel efficiency as the planes fly into winds that can exceed 150 miles (240 km) per hour.
"It's like riding a giant wooden roller coaster," said Commander Devin Brakob, a NOAA aircraft specialist who has flown into 15 storms over the past 10 years.
The hurricane hunter aircraft, Lockheed WP-3D Orions built in 1976, have become famous in coastal communities over their decades of risky missions. Each carries radar, weather sensors and computers used to track the storm in real time.