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NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) 2006 Seasonal Summary and Future Plans

Jim McFadden Jim.d.mcfadden@noaa.gov

Jack Parrish, Jac.R.Parrish@noss.gov

NOAA Aircraft Operations Center

During the busy and catastrophic 2005 hurricane season, the two WP-3Ds and G-IV from the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center flew a total of 135 missions and 921 hours in support of hurricane surveillance, reconnaissance and research.

The 2006 hurricane season was vastly different, however. The AOC aircraft flew only a total of 36 missions for 213.3 hours in support of operational and research requirements. Of this, the G-IV flew only seven surveillance missions for 58.6 hours while flying nine flights for 54.7 hours in support of the Saharan Air Layer (SALEX) experiment being conducted by the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

The single WP-3D dedicated to supporting the 2006 season also had low totals. This aircraft, in addition to supporting the annual Hurricane Awareness Tour (HAT) in May, flew two operational reconnaissance missions into T.S. Ernesto, one operational ocean heat budget survey flight in the Gulf of Mexico and four research missions into Hurricane Helene, two for SALEX and two for Ocean Winds Summer. Total operational hours were 37.8 and research hours were 62.2 giving a combined total of 20 flights and 100 hours.

FY07 and FY08 will see a number of instrumentation and navigation upgrades to the present fleet of hurricane aircraft plus the induction into service of the newly acquired third P-3 which will be used primarily to support other NOAA non-hurricane programs such as air quality studies that often occur during the hurricane season. The new upgrades include a tail Doppler radar (TDR) and stepped frequency microwave radiometer (SFMR) for the Gulfstream G-IV, improved radar data systems, new tail radar antennae, new inertial/GPS navigation systems, new cloud physics probes for the P-3s and improved dropsondes and a new data system for both type aircraft. The TDR planned for the G-IV will be installed in the winter of 2008, test flown that hurricane season and made operation for the 2009 hurricane season. Some of the P-3 upgrades will be completed prior to the 2007 season with the rest becoming operation prior to the 2008 season.

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