Hurricane Dorian All-Female Crew

The Hurricane Hunters Make History with their First All-Female, 3-Pilot Crew

As last summer’s Hurricane Dorian began making headway toward the Caribbean, wreaking havoc and devastation in its path, three brave women boldly boarded a G-IV aircraft and headed directly into the eye of the storm.

    Captain Kristine Twining, Commander Rebecca Waddington, and Lieutenant Lindsey Norman comprised the first-ever, all-female crew assigned to conduct a reconnaissance mission during the duration of Hurricane Dorian for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    Their job entailed collecting crucial data as the late summer storm relentlessly ravaged through the Caribbean and parts of Florida. The three-girl, recon aircrew took off from Lakeland, Florida during an early afternoon in late August and safely returned after a 6 ½ hour flight that covered 3,651 miles, according to global aviation software and data services company, Flight Aware. Once the women had completed their perilous task, Dorian had officially been upgraded to a category 2 storm with wind gusts of up to 105 mph (just short of a category 3 storm), according to the National Hurricane Center.

    Dubbed “The Hurricane Hunters,” the ladies were faced with having to fly defiantly and directly up the hurricane’s precarious path to retrieve beneficial data that could be used to help keep people on the ground safe – and informed. Says Lt. Norman of their mighty mission, who is also currently training to pilot a G-IV plane, “It was my first hurricane mission in the aircraft and I was fortunate to fly with Captain Twining and Lt. Commander Waddington. I’ve been working with them for five years. They’ve been mentors to me.”

    Ever wondered what a reconnaissance operation involves, exactly? The Hurricane Hunters typically fly up to 45,000 feet in order to properly assess the entire scope of the storm and its imminent course. Reaching these higher altitudes brings the aircraft directly above the storm where they can effectively collect the most accurate data. It is then that the Hurricane Hunters drop cylindrical monitoring devices known as “dropsondes,” which gather and decipher barometric measurements, such as humidity, pressure, temperature, and wind speed. A typical recon mission takes approximately eight hours total, where the crew flies non-stop and alternates commandeering duties of the aircraft, all based on a 24-hour cycle throughout the entire duration of the storm. The info is then transmitted to meteorologists, news stations, and affected citizens in the area.

    In 2008, duo Twining and Waddington successfully led the first-ever, all-women Hurricane Hunters team where they flew a G-IV over Hurricane Hector in Hawaii. With the addition of Norman to the savvy storm squad, they captured the historic event with a Twitter photo that had instantly gone viral. “This was just the first time we had three women, and it represented the future for aviation,” added Jonathan Shannon, communications specialist at NOAA. “We had two experienced female aviators mentoring the next generation coming up.  We thought it was neat to capture a photo!”