The plane climbed higher and higher as we left Keesler Air Force Base behind and headed toward the Atlantic Ocean in search of Tropical Storm Arthur. The crew was anxious to see if the storm had strengthened into a hurricane since the last flight.
"Talk about really the ultimate dream job for a weather person, this is probably it," said Brian Schroeder, a weather officer with the Hurricane Hunters.
Once we had reached the Atlantic, the pilot began flying through the storm in an alpha pattern. The plane made multiple passes through the center, investigating each quadrant. We encountered a bumpy ride through the northeast quadrant and even made additional passes through it, by request of the National Hurricane Center.
Multiple dropsondes were dropped into the storm, instantaneously sending back data that revealed temperature, humidity, pressure, and wind speed and direction. This data was then sent to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida for further analysis.
"When I first started, we had a hand calculator and we looked at instruments and we had to type all the data in," said Lt. Col. Valerie Hendry, weather officer. "And now the computer is doing that automatically. So we've basically got our head buried in this computer."
Arthur had indeed strengthened slightly but remained just below the wind speed threshold for a category one hurricane. After almost ten hours in the air, we headed back toward Biloxi.