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Flying With Hurricane Hunters Part 2

Hurricane Igor eyeBy Staff Sgt. Michael Keller, 1st Combat Camera Squadron

As an aerial combat photographer from the 1st Combat Camera Squadron, I have had some really great experiences and flying with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters” is definitely among them. Even though we were added to their mission plan on a short notice, we were welcomed from the moment we arrived. We were given a good run-down on what their squadron’s mission is and what we might expect while shooting photos during a flight into a hurricane.

The whole time we’ve been working with them, the members of the 53rd have been extremely helpful and easy to work and integrate with, which makes our job to document a mission much easier. They have really taken our team as one of their own and have been great about getting us on flights easily and giving us access to their mission. Anything we have needed has been taken care of and they genuinely seemed interested in having us fly with them.

The Hurricane Hunters are true professionals. Their job is inherently dangerous, and you can tell that they take it seriously. Even though we flew into the eye of a hurricane, I never really felt in danger, and safety was always an obvious concern onboard. Flying into hurricane Igor was bumpy at times, but we didn’t experience too much turbulence thankfully. It also helped that our pilots were very experienced and handled the turbulence we did run into expertly. 

During the flight to the eye, we were completely surrounded by clouds, but there were breaks in the cloud cover where we could clearly see the choppy Atlantic Ocean beneath us. When we went through the eye wall, it was not very well defined, but I could clearly see the direction the clouds were headed and before exiting the eye, I saw the clouds overhead had a swirling effect.

The Hurricane Hunters from the 53rd WRS have a very unique mission to provide valuable weather data, and I am very happy to have received the chance to fly with them and document that mission up close.

PHOTO: Over the Atlantic Ocean (September 16, 2010) – The eye of Hurricane Igor is seen from a U.S. Air Force WC-130J Hercules aircraft during a mission over the Atlantic Ocean Sept. 16, 2010. Known as the Hurricane Hunters, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron’s mission is to provide surveillance of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the central Pacific Ocean for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller/Released)