Hurricane hunter: Flight to Hurricane Ian 'worst I've ever been on'

Marnie Hunter, CNNUpdated 29th September 2022
Up next
See home nearly split in half by tree from storm
01:33
Families rescued from rooftops as heavy flooding hits Brazil
00:58
Heavy rain brings devastating landslide to Italian island
01:34
Video shows flood sweeping away cars in western Saudi Arabia
00:49
Drone video shows the condition of the Mississippi River
03:23
'She was running out of time': Man swims through storm surge to save his mother
03:00
Massive wave sweeps people off boardwalk
00:41
This famous tobacco farm is unrecognizable after Hurricane Ian
02:36
CNN's John Berman flew above storm damage. This is what he saw
03:23
'I know we all look crazy': Resident shares why she didn't leave before storm
04:14
(CNN) — An aerospace engineer who flew into Hurricane Ian in the early morning hours Wednesday said the flight was the worst of his career.
"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," hurricane hunter Nick Underwood said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Underwood, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, posted video of a very turbulent two minutes and 20 seconds aboard a NOAA flight. It shows people on the flight being jostled roughly in their seats, some laughing, and items including the plane's bunks being knocked around as lightning flashed through the windows.
"We're alright, we're alright," says one voice. "The 'we're alright' was for me," Underwood posted, also noting that the video was "edited for language."
Underwood has been flying in storms for six years, and the flight was his 76th into a hurricane, he told CNN.
"There was a ton of turbulence, both up and down and the lateral turbulence, which is honestly the most unsettling part of it. It was something else," Underwood said.
The aircraft, Kermit, is a Lockheed WP-3D Orion, an NOAA "Hurricane Hunter" that helps collect data used in tropical cyclone research and forecasting.
According to flight tracking site FlightAware, the flight took off from Houston at 2:55 a.m. CDT Wednesday and returned six hours and 47 minutes later.
"When I say this was the roughest flight of my career so far, I mean it. I have never seen the bunks come out like that. There was coffee everywhere. I have never felt such lateral motion," Underwood posted.
He shared a series of photos from the eye of the storm 8,000 feet above the ocean. The plane circled the eye of the storm to deploy an experimental drone referred to as a UAS (uncrewed aerial system). Underwood was tasked with assisting with getting it onto 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 posted in advance of the Wednesday flight.
The system "worked great," he tweeted later.
The cabin of Kermit, a Lockheed WP-3D Orion "Hurricane Hunter," was littered with items displaced during the Wednesday morning flight.
The cabin of Kermit, a Lockheed WP-3D Orion "Hurricane Hunter," was littered with items displaced during the Wednesday morning flight.
Nick Underwood/NOAA
Underwood underlined that hurricane hunting flights have a mission.
"Want to stress we don't 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. I'm a very small part of a large team. Incredible teammates."
But it's not all stone-cold serious when the crew is under pressure. The pilot always listens to music, Underwood posted. This time it was rapper Meek Mill of Dream Chasers Records.
Underwood had a message for Mill from the pilot.
"@MeekMill, he has asked me to relay, 'From one Dream Chaser to another.' "