By Craig Setzer

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Each year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Air Force take their hurricane hunter planes on an awareness tour.

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This year the NOAA WP-3 and Air Force Reserve HC-130 both paid a visit to Opa-Locka Airport.

The Air Force plane’s primary mission is to fly through a storm, measure its wind speed, and drop instruments into its eye and eye wall. It’s often Aerial Reconnaissance Weather Officers who help direct the plane to the eye of the storm.

Major Ryan Rickert told CBS4 Chief Meteorologist Craig Setzer it can be exciting and sobering.

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“We love our job,” said Rickert “but then when you start seeing it get close to places where there are people’s lives in danger, it’s very humbling.”


The NOAA aircraft’s mission may vary, ranging from a reconnaissance flight for the National Hurricane Center to a research flight for a planned science program. The NOAA plane is loaded with instruments allowing it to measure many different atmospheric properties in and near a hurricane. It also has three radars, two of them are Doppler radars to better see the winds and rain within the storm.

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The data received from both of these planes helps National Hurricane Center forecasters determine a storm’s size and strength as well as computer models to make better predictions. Researchers also use the data to help make better models and improve our understanding of these powerful storms.

Craig Setzer