46ºF

Flying into the eye: Hurricane Hunter pilot explains dangerous job, important mission

NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour lands in Roanoke on Wednesday


ROANOKE, Va. – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft made a stop in Roanoke on Wednesday as part of its Hurricane Awareness Tour.

Commander Nathan Kahn has flown in the hurricane hunter for four years.

"I am overall in charge. I am the lead pilot. I'm responsible for everything that goes on in the airplane," Kahn said.

Missions have taken Kahn and his crew into more than 100 mile per hour winds.

"If you took, like, a Tupperware lid and taped a GoPro to it and stuck it in your dishwasher and turned it on and just kind of watched all the water and bouncing and all that kind of stuff, that's what the airplane does in a hurricane," Kahn said. "Yeah, it is super dangerous."

10 News got an inside look at the technology that makes it happen, gathering data that lets you know how strong a storm is and where it's heading.

"When we can see it from start to finish early on, that's a really good data set for the researchers," Kahn said.

The crew was able to collect a good data set with Hurricane Florence last year, but Hurricane Michael was different.

"Michael surprised all of us. It caught all of us off guard," Kahn said.

Michael caught people in Southwest Virginia off guard, too. The remnants of the storm killed five people in the area.

"It rapidly intensified from the time we saw it to the time it made landfall, which is not something that anybody had ever seen before. That storm was angry from start to finish. I got folded over my seat belt and hit my head on the ceiling because the airplane was shook so hard," Kahn said.

Kahn said it’s a dangerous job, but a serious mission.

"We wouldn't do it if it didn't make a difference to somebody and to you guys out here on the ground," Kahn said.

The time to prepare for hurricane season is now. Click here to find out how you can get ready.