NOAA 2000-812
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani


One of NOAA's two venerable WP-3D Hurricane Hunter aircraft will be returning to service after a series of extensive repairs. The aircraft, which has survived countless Hurricane penetrations, was damaged while on the ground when it encountered a micro burst associated with a severe thunderstorm in Galveston, Texas, on May 2nd. The aircraft, affectionately nicknamed "Miss Piggy," will return to the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., late afternoon on Monday, Aug. 28th, 2000.

On April 25th, 2000, "Miss Piggy" embarked on the Gulfcoast Hurricane Awareness Tour. After visiting three cities in Mexico and Harlingen, Texas, the aircraft arrived at Scholes Field in Galveston on May 1st. Early on the morning of May 2nd, a micro burst associated with a severe thunderstorm hit the airport. Winds in excess of 100 knots, ripped five light single engine aircraft from their tie downs. The hurricane force winds picked up one of the light aircraft and literally threw it into Miss Piggy's tail section, causing damage to the left elevator, tail Doppler Radar radome and aft lower fuselage. Miss Piggy's rudder and vertical stabilizer were also severely damaged when the heavy winds forced the control surface beyond its normal travel stops.

On May 3rd, the Lone Star Flight Museum located at Scholes Field, graciously offered it's facilities and a tie down area until the repairs could be completed. Miss Piggy was repositioned to the museum's parking ramp and the arduous task of repairs began. The logistics of assessing the damage, the acquisition of the required parts and hardware from numerous sources, and putting together a team of structural repair personnel was completed by mid-July.

The repair team from the Naval Aviation Depot in Jacksonville, Fla., and the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, completed the first series of repairs on August 14th, following a month of working under a blazing Texas sun coupled with sweltering tropical humidity. Miss Piggy was certified for a one-time flight to the Naval Aviation Depot facility in Jacksonville, to complete the next series of repairs to the fuselage and tail Doppler Radar radome.

On Aug. 15, 2000, Miss Piggy arrived in Jacksonville and the completion of the repairs began immediately.

After almost four months of separation, and "Kermit" [Miss Piggy's WP-3D counterpart] doing double duty, Miss Piggy rejoins the dynamic team of hurricane research aircraft at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center for the height of the hurricane season. Due to the efforts of many people in government agencies all over the country, Miss Piggy, Kermit and the newest addition to the team, Gonzo, the Gulfstream IV high-altitude jet, can again, combine their state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation used to effectively forecast the severe weather that affects America's coastal regions.

The Aircraft Operations Center, located at MacDill Air Force Base, is part of NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The aircraft are operated, modified, and maintained by civilians and NOAA Corps officers. FAA-certified mechanics and technicians maintain and repair the aircraft, both in the field and at the AOC. The AOC's scientists, meteorologists, and engineers develop, build, and operate prototype and operational scientific instrumentation on the aircraft.

NOAA aircraft conduct a broad range of missions that include hurricane and atmospheric research, airport obstruction surveys, coastal mapping, snow surveys, and marine mammal and fish surveys. The fleet consists of 14 heavy and light fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.