Hurricane Hunters fly Franklin, Idalia

  • Published
  • By Jessica L. Kendziorek
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

After Tropical Storm Hilary made landfall Aug. 20 on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico, the Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron’s hurricane hunters began flying storms in both the Atlantic and the Caribbean.

Upon return to the Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters were tasked by the National Hurricane Center, with the Chief Aerial Reconnaissance Coordination, All Hurricanes (CARCAH) to travel to St. Croix on Aug. 22, and fly the suspect area which later developed into Hurricane Franklin.

“We flew 11 missions into Franklin out of St. Croix from Aug. 23 - 28,” said Lt. Col. Steve Burton, 53rd WRS navigator and Franklin mission commander. “We also made 27 fixes and dropped more than 125 dropsondes into the storm, providing the NHC with up-to-date information.”

The hurricane hunters’ mission is to fly into tropical systems and collect atmospheric data, which is used by forecasters to create more accurate models. One aspect of that is the fix mission, which is typically flown into a storm from 5,000 to 10,000 feet, where the weather officer directs the crew to try to locate the center of the storm or "fix it's center". This accomplishes in finding three things: direction, speed, and intensity of the storm.

The 53rd WRS also began flying into a developing storm in the Caribbean from their home station at Keesler AFB late Sunday, where Idalia rapidly developed into a Category 4 hurricane and made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near Keaton Beach, Florida today.

“I flew Idalia as a tropical storm on Sunday night and while it was pretty smooth, you could tell it was intensifying,” said 1st Lt. Zach McDermott, 53rd WRS pilot. “During the flight last night, at one point when it was 70-80 miles from making landfall, we saw the storm at its strongest and it reached Category 4 winds, but as it made landfall as a Category 3 storm, we saw the eye start to become disorganized and begin to break apart.”

Hurricane Idalia is expected to continue to impact areas of Florida, Georgia and southern South Carolina today through Thursday, according to the NHC and residents in the area are recommended to follow the advice of local officials. For more information go to