Hurricane Hunter Says Flight to Ian Was the ‘Worst I’ve Ever Been on’

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

Hurricane hunter Nick Underwood is opening up about his trip aboard an airplane into the eye of Hurricane Ian. In fact, Underwood called this the worst trip that he’s ever been on. In a tweet, he wrote, “This flight to Hurricane #Ian on Kermit (#NOAA42) was the worst I’ve ever been on. I’ve never seen so much lightning in an eye.”

Underwood is an aerospace engineer, CNN reports, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He posted a video that took into account 2 minutes and 20 seconds of action on an NOAA flight. What do we see? People are roughed up in their seats. Laughing is there, too. Items get knocked onto the floor of the plane during Hurricane Ian. The bunks got knocked around as lightning flashed.

Hurricane Ian Pilot Has Been Going Into Storms For Six Years

In additional information, flight tracking site FlightAware indicated that the NOAA plane left Houston at 2:55 a.m. Central time on Wednesday. It made it back to home base after 6 hours and 47 minutes. Kermit, the aircraft, was a Lockheed WP-3D Orion. It’s a NOAA “Hurricane Hunter” which collects data for tropical cyclone research and forecasting as well.

Underwood said that he’s been going into storms like Hurricane Ian for the past six years. “When I say this was the roughest flight of my career so far, I mean it,” he posted online. “I have never seen the bunks come out like that. There was coffee everywhere. I have never felt such lateral motion.” Underwood also shared photos from the storm’s eye about 8,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

Kermit would circle the eye of Hurricane Ian, then deploy an experimental drone called the UAS (unscrewed aerial system). He gets the task of assisting in getting it on and out of the aircraft. “There is potential it opens the door for new and interesting data sets. We’re looking to see how it performs,” Underwood wrote ahead of Wednesday’s flight. How did it perform? The system “worked great,” he wrote later on Twitter.

He went on to say that hurricane hunting flights have a mission. “Want to stress we don’t (do) this for fun. It’s a public service. We go up there to gather data on the storm that can keep folks on the ground safe,” he wrote. “Those forecast models? A lot of the data comes from what we do.”