The US Air Force WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft visited Grand Cayman on Wednesday.
Around 700 school children toured the plane, which is used for reconnaissance missions into tropical storms and hurricanes.
Bill Read of the National Hurricane Center of the United States said he had been to Cayman recently to get ready for hurricane season and explained what the Hurricane Hunters team does.
“We go around the Caribbean and Mexico making stops to give people the opportunity to learn how we do our job and take out the mystery of what it takes to forecast for the hurricane season. We also take the opportunity to get people thinking about being prepared for the upcoming hurricane season.
“We have meetings with leaders of the community, give science lectures to people who work with the industry and of course the school kids. People like me with a little grey hair are dense and don’t learn as fast, but those kids, what we teach them… will stay with them for the rest of their life and they’ll hopefully bring it home so that you are ready for hurricane season,” said Mr. Read.
The team of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is the only operational unit worldwide that flies weather reconnaissance on a routine basis.
The 10 aircraft of the squadron fly into storms to gather data on hurricanes for use by the National Hurricane Center, which is used by weather stations in North America and the Caribbean.
Each highly skilled team comprises pilot, co-pilot, navigator, reconnaissance loadmaster and flight meteorologist. The meteorologist observes, collects and records data using computer and the reconnaissance loadmaster is charged with collecting and recording data from a parachute-borne sensor, the dropsonde, which measures and encodes data for four minutes after its release from the plane as it makes its way toward the ocean’s surface through a storm.
Chief pilot of the Hurricane Hunter, Dave Borsi, said the team was glad to be in Cayman.
“We are always overwhelmed by the interest in the mission that we fly and helping to come out to your community to make you aware of how much international effort there is throughout the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and the United States to make sure the information that gets to you from the National Hurricane Center is as accurate as possible.
“As you can appreciate, the mission can be dangerous at times, but we do train as much as possible throughout the season. We have folks aboard the airplane that have been through at least 200 hurricanes.”
He added that there was one question everyone wants to ask the crew: What is it like flying in a hurricane?
“I can tell you, it’s like being in a car wash and a roller-coaster ride at the same time. For me and the crew members, it’s the best job in the world.”