Hurricane hunters share wild footage, describe terrifying flight into eye of Ian: ‘It was out of control’

On Wednesday, various groups of “hurricane hunters” flew directly into the eye of Hurricane Ian to collect vital information for meteorologists and others.

One group, a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flew an aircraft named Kermit into the eye of the storm before it made landfall.

According to NOAA engineer Nick Underwood, who was aboard the flight, it was the “roughest flight” he’s ever experienced in his storm-tracking career.

Thankfully, Underwood posted a video clip to Twitter proving it.


“It was surprising to find such a violent part of the storm on the western side, which tends to be not as violent part of the storm. And really, it was just a lot of turbulence in a lateral direction. Normally we get the up and down stuff, but getting tossed side to side is a lot more unnerving than you would expect,” he later said in remarks to Boston station WBTS.

“Something that sort of added to the environment was the amount of lightning, both in the eyewall, and then once we got into the eye even. I’ve never seen so much lightning inside of a hurricane,” he added.

Asked by WBTS to rank his flight through Hurricane Ian versus other hurricanes he’s flown through in the past, Underwood said, “It’s my number one.”

Major Kendall Dunn of the Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron said something in a separate interview Thursday morning on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”

He too flew into the eye of Hurricane Ian this Wednesday, although as part of another team — one specifically with the U.S. Air Force.

“Dunn described the flight as the most intense of his career,” according to Fox News.

“I’ve been on some scary flights in my life, but not that bad. I went to the top of my seatbelt, shot back down,” he said of the flight.

“Yesterday’s flight was a little crazy. We were flying through the storm; next thing you know, we were hitting updrafts and downdrafts faster than you can imagine. And it was out of control, big-time,” Dunn added.


So why do these organizations fly into hurricanes? The reasons differ slightly.

“NOAA’s hurricane hunters help confirm a storm’s location and strength, as do Air Force Reserve reconnaissance flights. But the NOAA planes also serve as flying research labs that launch probes and collect real-time scientific data crucial to understanding — and better forecasting — hurricanes,” according to The New York Times.

Indeed, in remarks to the Times, Underwood noted that his team launched one of these drones during their flight Wednesday.

“The basic idea is that it can go to the places in the storm that we can’t,” he said, adding that the drones help collect “the lifesaving data that we’re really up there for.”

A third group also flew into the eye of Hurricane Ian on Wednesday.

“KHOU 11 Meteorologist Chita Craft and photojournalist Ivan Gibson flew into Category 4 storm Ian Wednesday on a Hurricane Hunter as it made landfall on Florida’s West Coast,” Houston station KHOU reported.

“The crews on board were collecting critical data from inside the storm to help track this monster hurricane’s wind strength, location and more for NOAA and the National Hurricane Center.”

It’s not clear who provided them with the craft and who was flying it.

Hurricane hunting is obviously a scary business — one that sometimes boasts deadly outcomes.

“People have been flying into hurricanes and typhoons ever since 1943, when Colonel Joe Duckworth took a single engine AT-6 trainer aircraft into the Category 1 Surprise Hurricane off the coast of Texas,” Weather Underground notes.

“Hurricane hunting became safer with the introduction of sturdier 4-engine planes, but flying through the eyewall of any hurricane remains a dangerous occupation–one that has claimed six hurricane or typhoon hunter planes, with loss of 53 lives. Five of these flights were into Pacific typhoons, and one into an Atlantic hurricane.”


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Vivek Saxena


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