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NOAA Hurricane Hunter plane grounded ahead of Dorian

Tracking the Tropics
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LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A team of pilots, scientists and meteorologists planned to fly to study Hurricane Dorian early Friday morning. They are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Hunter team.

That flight never took off. A mechanical issue kept the aircraft grounded.

The flight was scheduled to leave from Lakeland Linder International Airport in Polk County at 1:30 in the morning after a safety briefing.

Eight on Your Side’s Chip Osowski and photojournalist Jamie Cook were going to be accompanying the team and were disappointed with the news. Although, both were appreciative of the NOAA’s thorough inspection of the aircraft.

The crews use the equipment on board to analyze the hurricane and also use GPS devices called “dropsondes” to gather data.

“What they do is as they drop they take a profile like a weather balloon but in reverse of what’s happening in the upper atmosphere,” said Jonathan Shannon, a Public Affairs Officer with the agency. “So you get temperature, pressure, humidity and as this gets blown around it’s got a GPS device in it so you get wind speed and direction. Those are key elements in determining the storm’s strength and hopefully narrow down its track.”

Crews will now work to fix the problem and hope to be back in business as soon as possible. In the meantime, NOAA has a number of other airplanes in the air, feeding back data.

This is my third Hurricane Hunter trip. In 2005 I flew with the crew into Hurricane Wilma and then in 2017 over Hurricane Irma.

The crews use the equipment on board to analyze the hurricane and also use GPS devices called ‘dropsondes’ to gather data.

The devices record information such as air temperature and pressure, wind speed and direction and humidity. Those are key elements in determining the storm’s strength and hopefully narrow down its track.

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