By: Andy Alcock
May 22, 2014
Tallahassee, FL - Hurricane season officially begins a week from Sunday. Part of being prepared is having some idea of where these storms are headed. One man who helps in that effort gets up close and personal with hurricanes about 7,000 feet above ground.
At first glance, the cockpit of the plane Chris Kerns flies doesn't look very unusual. But it's no ordinary plane.
The P-3 aircraft affectionately known as Miss Piggy flies directly into the teeth of hurricanes.
Kerns has been doing it for four years and says he didn't know what to expect the first time.
"I kind of came into it with white knuckles on the yoke," said Kerns. "I kind of describe it, it was like flying inside a strobe light for four hours and lightning was flashing all over the place. I wasn't sure if we were going to get hit or not."
By making that flight, the team on the plane can get data so forecasters can have a better idea of not only the strength of the storm, but where it's headed.
About a thousand area school children had a chance to see that plane, a C-130 Aircraft with a similar mission and other exhibits at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA's Hurricane Tour.
Included in that group was 155 5th graders from Tallahassee's Gilchrist Elementary School.
"For them to be able to see the planes somewhat in action and to be able to ask the questions of the meteorologists and see the curriculum they've been having all year is great," said Gilchrist teacher Janna Gray.
Miss Piggy has made it through 83 hurricanes and Kerns says he hopes to fly through others.
"When people ask me if I'm scared, I say no I don't get scared, but I have a healthy level of anxiety."
This year marks the first one for the Hurricane Tour since 2011 when it was done along the east coast of the U.S.
Federal budget cuts stopped the tour in 2012 and 2013. If funding is approved, the tour will return to the Gulf Coast in 2016.