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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Nothing beats being in a storm to know exactly what’s happening with it.

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That’s where the Hurricane Hunter aircraft come in. The planes are specially modified to investigate one of nature’s biggest storm systems.

“They all have a little different personality, you know,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Keith Gibson, “Some will knock your back teeth out and some are like a roller coaster or ride like the Tower of Terror.”

Gibson is the Director of Operations for the Hurricane Hunters.

“I think probably one of the biggest things as a pilot as we’re flying one of these huge storms is the surreal nature of it,” said Gibson. “You know it can be pretty rough in the storm as we’re penetrating the eye, going through different quadrants.”


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The pilots and crew are always aware that they are not the only people feeling a storm’s fury.

“Just to think what’s going on down at the surface and the devastation that can occur, of course we’re all coastal residents for the most part,” said Gibson.

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One of the primary missions of the hurricane hunter aircraft is to sample the environment all the way down to the ocean.

“We’re actually recording these storms so we can also go back through for training and look at how we penetrated the storm because we have to avoid, at least, severe weather. We don’t fly through the most severe just to fly through it. So we try to go around it. But that data, the real time data the National Hurricane Center wants, you just can’t get it from the satellite. We’re the only ones who can get it from the eye,” said Gibson.

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The first Hurricane Hunters began flying in the 1940s. The Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron operate ten Lockheed WC-130J aircraft, which fly directly into the hurricane, typically penetrating the hurricane’s eye several times per mission at altitudes between 500 feet and 10,000 feet.