There are only 10 aircraft in the world capable of flying into the heart of a hurricane, and they’re all at Keesler Airforce Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“We are it. We are the only operational unit in the world that does this and it’s all right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Lt. Col. Sean Cross told 4WWL. “Flying in a hurricane is very dangerous. Ships avoid it, everybody avoids it, everybody evacuates. And here we are in the 150,000-pound aircraft.”
Cross is a part of the famed 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron also known as the Hurricane Hunters. This elite group of approximately 100 Air Force reservists fly high-tech WC-130J planes into hazardous tropical weather systems to collect vital information that’s later shared with the world.
Needless to say, with Hurricane Dorian throwing her weight around, they’ve been quite busy lately.
“We’ve been flying around the clock since last Monday,” Cross said.
During missions, crew members release up to 24 dropsondes, weather devices that gather data on any storm that could pose a risk to land.
“Every 10 feet, it’s taking a snapshot of temperature, pressure, winds, and humidity,” Cross explained to 4WWL. “They (the National Hurricane Center) plug that information into the models to make that forecast model 25 percent more accurate due to the information we’ve collected inside the storm.”
WATCH: 10 Essential Things To Do Before A Hurricane
Though he’s gotten up close and personal with his fair share of monster storms, Cross still feels safer in the sky than he does on land when a hurricane strikes.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve ridden out storms on the ground and I’ve flown through a lot,” he said. “I will fly through a hurricane any day before I ride one out on the ground if that puts it into perspective for you.”