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Ask Todd: Hurricane planes

9:43 PM, Sep 11, 2012   |    comments
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Ginger asks: "How do weather planes get through the hurricane walls without breaking apart from the force of the winds?"

It all comes down to science and timing.

First of all, weather planes are specially modified, both internally and externally.

When approaching the eye of a storm, pilots also have to punch through the wall at just the right angle. If they miss that by even a few degrees, the plane could go down.

They also follow a certain flight path. In most cases a pattern called "Alpha Pattern."

An almost loop keeps the planes safe and helps meteorologists collect maximum data.

The new Weather Channel "Hurricane Hunters" shows us first-hand how the military's weather planes collect that information.

After breaking through the eye wall, they drop and instrument called a "dropsonde." It has a GPS receiver, along with pressure, temperature, and humidity sensors. It typically relays information to a computer in the aircraft via radio transmission.

Keep in mind, this kind of science has been saving people's lives for years.

Military hurricane hunters had their first big success with "The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944."

Navy, Army and the Air Force's airplanes tracked the storm from Puerto Rico to North Carolina to New England.

Thanks to the new warnings, the hurricane killed only 50 people, which was a relatively low death toll at the time.

A similar storm just a few years before had killed 600 people.

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