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Hurricane hunters take flight out of Jacksonville International Airport headed for Isaac

10:29 PM, Aug 28, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's not your average pre-flight briefing.

But your average pilot wouldn't fly directly into the center of a hurricane.

"It's cool to fly into storms. I like roller coasters so it's a pretty great gig," said Todd Richards. He's an electronics technician aboard NOAA's P-3 hurricane hunter "Kermit The Frog."

"We've got two P-3s and a G-IV," Richards said. "The other P-3 is called Miss Piggy, the Gulfstream is Gonzo."

A look inside the flight deck and you're flooded with lights, knobs, meters and levers.  

But flight engineer Joe Klippel adds his own character to the flight deck. A pair of yellow fuzzy dice hangs just over his head.

"Just good luck, that's it. The other aircraft has pink dice," Klippel said laughing.

Luck doesn't hurt, but they depend on experience.

After a thorough briefing and safety discussion, the hunters, a crew of more than a dozen scientists, pilots and engineers, take off from Jacksonville International Airport.

It's an hour flight to get to Isaac in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

Five bumpy, stomach churning passes through the eye.

There's no time to be sick -- they're busy taking measurements.

"Wind direction, wind speed, pressure, temperature, humidity," chief technician and engineer Terry Lynch said.

Lynch has flown into hurricanes for 27 years. He's two hurricane "penetrations" shy of a world record.

"I love my job. This is the best. And I get to work with the brightest folks."

Sure, there are some tense moments for outsiders. But it's just a normal day at the office for them.

They take risks every day there's a tropical threat, gathering live-saving info all while risking their own.

First Coast News

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