Posted by on Monday, January 16, 2017
The Hurricane Hunters are aircrews that fly into tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeastern Pacific Ocean to gather weather data.
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 occasionally. In 1946, the moniker "Hurricane Hunters" was first used, and the Air Force and now Air Force Reserve have used it ever since.
The Air Force Reserve 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, the world's only operational military weather reconnaissance unit, is based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.
One U.S. aircrew has been lost in duty since such missions began in 1943. Six of the seven crew members of the Navy PB4Y-2 (BuNo 59415) were killed on October 1, 1945 when their plane went down in a Category 1 typhoon over the South China Sea.