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Hurricane Research Aircraft

These aircraft are maintained and operated by
NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center.

Gulfstream IV jet

"Gonzo" N49RF

NOAA's Gulfstream-IV SP jet is a state-of-the-art, high altitude research platform. 'Gonzo' was aquired in 1996 to improve NOAA's tropical cyclone forecast capability by being able to deploy dropsondes from high altitude over large areas of open sea, where few observations are available. Track forecast improvements on the order of 20% are scientifically possible through use of this dropsonde data. Such reduction in track errors should reduce the average warning area by at least 10% (34 miles), saving the public more than $45M in 5 years.

Performance Characteristics

45,000 ft (12 km),
4075 nm (7000 km),
10 h
True air speed:
440 kt (240 m/s).
Aircraft dimensions:
length: 88' 4" (26.9 m)
wing span: 77' 10" (23.7 m)
height: 24' 5" (7.4 m)
10 (3 scientists/observers)

  • Instrumentation to provide:
    • 1-Hz flight-level data
    • GPS dropwindsonde system
    • Workstation with HAPS data processing

    WP-3D Turboprop Aircraft

    "Kermit" N42RF
    "Miss Piggy" N43RF

    The WP-3Ds, N42RF and N43RF, have been the primary airborne platforms for meteorological research in NOAA since the late 1970s. They provide access to the lower and middle troposphere with large payload, large fuselage volume, long duration, and long range. Aircraft instrumentation includes fight-level data sensors, airborne radars with Doppler wind finding, cloud physics instrumentation (including electric field measurements), remote sensors for surface wind and rainfall estimation, expendables (e.g.; dropsondes, AXBTs, AXCPs, and drifting buoys), and an aircraft-satellite data link (ASDL) to transmit data back to the ground. Some equipment, such as that for remote sensing of sea-surface conditions or for atmospheric electricity measurements, is unique to one airframe or the other. In addition to the hurricane research mission, for which they were originally procured, these aircraft support diverse programs throughout NOAA, outside the agency, and internationally.

    Performance Characteristics:

    25,000 ft (7.6 km)
    2,225 nm (4,100 km) low altitude (<18,000 ft or 4.8 km)
    3,300 nm (6,100km) high altitude (>18,000 ft or 4.8 km)
    8.5 h low altitude
    10.5 h high altitude
    True air speed:
    325 kt (170 m/s).
    Aircraft dimensions:
    length: 111' 2" (34.2 m)
    wing span: 99' 7" (30.6 m)
    height: 33' 8" (10.4 m)
    Scientific Payload:
    9000 lb (4090 kg)
    18 (9 scientists/observers)

    Updated June 16, 2003

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