VW-4 Hurricane Hunters

Long before satellites carpeted the globe with their all-seeing, all tracking weather eyes, hurricanes and other major tropical storms were identified, located and reported on by ships at sea and observations from remote locations. As often as not, the location of the center, storm size estimate and track was as much chance and good luck as it was application of scientific principles. To be sure, the timeliness of any subsequent reporting was severely handicapped, even with the addition of radio reports. Adding aircraft to the equation began to improve the quality of forecasting with their ability to cover a larger area and provide observations from inside the storm above the surface, adding insight into the life cycle of these great beasts. The first recorded flight into a hurricane was in 1943 by a British pilot flying an AT-6 Texan on a bet – two flights were made into what became known as the “Surprise Hurricane” of 1943. However, it was Navy aircraft, predominantly, that were deployed to track and report on the storms. Because of their great range and endurance, long-range patrol bombers like the Navy’s PB4Y-2 Privateer were the initial platform of choice.

However, it wasn’t until the advent of another Navy program, begun in WWII, that the next level of tracking, reporting and understanding hurricanes came to pass. That advent was the appearance of a second generation of AEW aircraft, specifically the Lockheed WV-2 Super Constellation, that traced their roots to Project CADILLAC II, which were assigned to dedicated weather reconnaissance squadrons. Of these, the best known was VW-4, the Hurricane Hunters. (More here)

VW-4 WV-3/EC-121K (1967)

VW-4 WV-3/WC-121N (1967)

Posted by SteelJaw in Aviation, Navy

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  • Byron

    Thanks for the links to the Hurrican Hunters, and particularly Dr. Masters recounting of his last ride into Hugo. I’ve lived in hurricane country my whole life, and live in fear and awe of these monster storms. As I explained to my wife (who is from the mountains of W. Maryland), “When I say it’s time to get the hell out of Dodge, we’re going!” Anyone who tries to ride one out at the beach is a fool and a damned fool. These storms don’t care about your foolishness, they just flat kill you.

    And I suspect that you’re a fan of the Weather Underground. I am as well, and from late June till late October, I hang out a lot in Dr. Masters blog, where I get to read a lot of good info and data on incoming storms. An excellent tool for a weather watcher.

    BZ to the Hunters! Craziest people in the world, bar none!

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    None crazier, or more skilled at what they do.

    BZ indeed.

  • @Byron: Presume you mean the current day meteorology website (yes) and not the ’60s radical group (though I did write my undergraduate thesis on the evolution of the SDS/Weather Underground) 😉

    May be it was a “wonderful world of Disney” or Cronkite’s “20th Century”show, but I remember watching a documentary of the Hunters in action and thinking that was what I wanted to do when I got my wings (I was 9 or 10) – of course they were decomm’d by the time I was commissioned and at Pensacola so I tried for Viggies, and missed it by one class (class before us was the last one as they were getting rid fo the RA5Cs) – story of my life…
    – SJS

  • Byron

    SJS, one day I’ll hook you up with a buddy of mine: Pat “Rabbit” O’Shea, who flew Viggies Downtown, straight and level, in broad daylight, and at the speed of heat. Great guy, damn glad to know him as my friend.

  • Byron

    BTW, there’s a Hunter who posts to Dr. Masters blog, while INSIDE the storm!!!

  • BTW, there’s a Hunter who posts to Dr. Masters blog, while INSIDE the storm!!!

    *That* would be a blast…
    – SJS