TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to go up in the air during dangerous tropical cyclones and fly straight into the storm, you’re not alone.

Hurricane Hunters have a massive role when it comes to forecasting tropical storms and hurricanes. They fly specially-equipped aircraft into the eyewall of massive and dangerous storms to collect data that helps make storm predictions more accurate and improves forecast models.

So how do Hurricane Hunters prepare themselves to make those daunting flights? Two of NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters who recently worked to track Hurricane Ian stopped by Tracking the Tropics earlier this week to explain.

Work preparations

Flight Director Nikki Hathaway says the flight itself feels short compared to all of the preparation that takes place before takeoff.

“We’re focused on getting all of our expendables – things like our dropsondes, our BTs which measure our water temperature below the aircraft – different expendables on board the plane, making sure it’s gassed up, ready to go and everyone’s in the right headspace,” Hathaway explained.

Hathaway supported the recent flights into Hurricane Ian from the ground, but has plenty of experience flying into storms. She said another huge aspect of preparation is the briefings that take place before flights.

“What we do is we make sure we’re going through, getting the latest data, talking to the folks at the National Hurricane Center, making sure we have the latest to make sure we brief our crews – what they need to know and what to anticipate before we head into the storm,” she said. “And so that preparation can take an hour to two hours ahead of actual takeoff.”

She said they also have another briefing once everyone is on the plane to make sure the team is aware of any changes to the forecast or information provided by other hurricane hunters.

“We’re always refreshing ourselves on the data before taking off and going into the storm environment,” Hathaway said.

Physical preparations

Aerospace Engineer Nick Underwood, who called his recent flight into Hurricane Ian the roughest of his career so far, said preparing yourself physically before flying can also be important. He added that everyone on the team prepares differently.

“For me, I always make sure that I’m well rested, well hydrated – is the big thing. And then I typically just snack on a bunch of different things throughout the flight,” Underwood said. “I actually like to eat on these turbulent flights.”

“Typically the more full the stomach is, the less of that, like, stomach acid you get sloshing around,” he added. “So at least for me, that’s how I prepare.”

Hathaway, on the other hand, said she’s not an in-flight “eater.”

“I think it comes back down to just if you’re staying busy, you’re not really focused on, sometimes, what your body might be saying – ‘hey, I’m hungry,'” she said. “But when you have all this data to go through and pick through before it’s getting pushed off, really – the timing, I think, kinda keeps you from thinking, ‘oh maybe I’m a little nauseous.”

Neither Hathaway and Underwood said they get nausea when they’re flying into storms. Hathaway believes it also may have something to do with reference points.

“Most of the time it’s dark, or just very cloudy and gray,” she said. “So you don’t have this, like, motion that you’d see as if you were on a boat that would maybe make you feel like, ‘oh I’m not so stable.’ Your reference point is focused on the computer or whatever you’re working on.”