by Master Sgt. Brian Lamar
403rd Public Affairs
5/21/2014 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- On
Oct 12, 1974, six airmen were preparing their WC-130H to fly into
Typhoon Bess. The last time anyone ever heard from the 54th Weather
Reconnaissance Squadron "Typhoon Hunters" was when their position was
radioed in to Clark Air Force Base at 10 p.m. 400 miles northwest of the
coast of the Philippines.
Crash investigators later speculated that a catastrophic event had sent
the plane into the churning waters below. No emergency radio
communication was ever received from the aircraft, known as call sign
Technology and communication equipment has improved vastly since 1974.
To further enhance communication capabilities, the 53rd Weather
Reconnaissance Squadron Hurricane Hunters upgraded to commercial Iridium
satellite phones. This year, all 10 of the WC-130J Hurricane Hunting
aircraft will have Satphones installed into the aircraft.
"We have been working on getting the phones in the aircraft for a few
years now, this will help us tremendously," said Lt. Col. Robert
Stanton, Operations Group deputy commander.
Even with technology advances since the late 70s with current radios,
the aircraft has to be within line-of-sight to another radio tower or
use High Frequency Band radios, which the signal also diminishes during a
"We tend to fly fairly low and a lot of times were not in their radar
coverage so they can't see us and they can't talk to us because we're
too low and all this stuff is line of sight," said Talbot.
Talking to Air Traffic Control becomes imperative when venturing into another country's airspace.
"Often, we [Hurricane Hunters] will need to gain clearance from control
and ... to ensure another aircraft isn't nearby but we couldn't because
the radio communication failed," Talbot explained.
In January, the first of 10 aircraft successfully completed the
installation and communication testing began to ensure all the satphones
were functioning properly. Currently five aircraft have been upgraded
and the other half of the Hunter fleet should be completed by July.
"The phones worked perfectly, we now have a capability to call the
National Hurricane Center and give them updates and discuss the data we
are seeing during a storm," said Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, the 53rd WRS chief
Before the additional phones, the Hurricane Hunters could text
information, but had no capability to discuss what they were seeing
while in the air.
As an added layer of safety through communication, the Hurricane Hunters
will now have this tool to more efficiently and safely complete their
job and a potential catastrophic emergency like the one that took Swan
38 could be avoided.