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Dan Van Ravenswaay, a high school marine science teacher from ASSETS School in Honolulu, Hawaii, was selected to be a NOAA Teacher in the Air, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) program that gives educators an opportunity to get hands-on research experience aboard a NOAA aircraft. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Van Ravenswaay flew aboard NOAA’s Gulfstream-IV hurricane surveillance jet on March 13 and 14 as the jet conducted ozone research (March 13) and severe winter storms research along the jetstream over the Pacific Ocean (March 14).
The program is an extension of NOAA’s 13-year-old Teacher at Sea program, where teachers go aboard NOAA oceanographic, fisheries, and hydrographic survey ships to work side-by-side with NOAA scientists. Van Ravenswaay was a NOAA Teacher at Sea in 1993 aboard NOAA fisheries ship Townsend Cromwell. Because of this past experience, NOAA contacted him and offered him the opportunity to fly aboard the NOAA G-IV when it was temporarily based in Honolulu.
After completing two flights over the weekend, Van Ravenswaay said that “I can’t wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow my students will be both excited and busy with what I bring back to class. This will be a great way to review some things we worked on earlier this year. I’ll be having them do some metric to English unit conversions, and then they’re going to make a map of my flights using GPS coordinates from our flight path. This will be a great earth science, math, geography lesson for them ... and within hours of when they all woke up this morning to the screaming winds caused by the frontal shear connected to the low we circumnavigated in the jet today. I could go on and on,” he said.
The jet was temporarily based in Honolulu Jan. 21-31; moved its base to Anchorage, Alaska Feb. 1-27; and then returned to Honolulu on Feb. 28. The project ended today, March 15. Its primary mission was to gather data over the Pacific Ocean, where severe winter storms originate that seriously affect the continental United States and Alaska. The purpose of the research was to improve local weather forecasts released 24-96 hours before a storm.
“The NOAA Teacher at Sea program has provided teachers a wonderful opportunity to improve their research skills by working closely with NOAA scientists,” said Rear Admiral Nicholas A. Prahl, deputy director of the NOAA Corps and NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations. NOAA Corps officers serve as ship captains and aircraft commanders. “We want to build on this success by also making teachers a part of the scientific teams aboard NOAA research aircraft that collect much of the data NOAA needs to carry out its mission.”
“Teachers who have participated in the Teacher at Sea program are enthusiastic about NOAA science, and pass their interest and knowledge on to their students. We are contacting our ‘alumni’ who live in areas where we have aircraft working to see if they’d like to gain new experience. We are delighted that Dan Van Ravenswaay was able to take us up on the offer,” said Jennifer Hammond, NOAA Teacher at Sea program manager. “Once we see how well the program works, we’ll develop an application process and qualifications criteria for teachers new to the NOAA education programs.”
Although Van Ravenswaay is only the second teacher to fly under the pilot program, NOAA did sponsor two “Teachers in the Field” last year. Part of the work they did involved flying aboard a NOAA WP-3D Orion “hurricane hunter” aircraft during a project in Brazil. The success of that project contributed to the impetus for the new pilot program.
Teachers who wish to fly with NOAA but who are not former NOAA Teachers at Sea must go through the Teacher at Sea application process.
NOAA’s G-IV jet, used primarily for hurricane surveillance, is based at NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. AOC is part of NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes civilians as well as officers of the NOAA Corps, the smallest of the nation’s seven uniformed services. NOAA Corps pilots and civilian meteorologists, flight and electronics engineers, and technicians are highly trained to operate in adverse weather conditions.
The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.
On the Web:
NOAA Aircraft Operations Center: http://www.aoc.noaa.gov
Teacher at Sea: