NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Awareness Tour paid a visit to MacArthur Airport on Long Island. The star on display was the Hurricane Hunters aircraft, which flies directly through the eye of the storm.
"We're the only ones in the world that do this mission," U.S. Air Force Capt. Lucas Caulder said. "It actually helps people and impacts their lives in a positive way. We're very happy to have this job."
Caulder, the pilot of the WC-130J aircraft, said that their hurricane missions are over water and not land.
"It's not safe for us. You guys have land based radar and different meteorological equipment that can keep track of things," he said. "You guys can't track over water, that's why we do it."
Since the 1940s, the Hurricane Hunters have been a critical component of hurricane forecasting. Dr. Rick Knabb from the National Hurricane Center said the data collected is necessary to build a forecast.
"We get data at the flight level at which the airplane is traveling. They also drop these parachute-born dropsondes that give us a vertical profile and measure the maximum winds in the eye wall of a hurricane," Knabb said. "That's what we base the intensity on. How strong it is now is the best start to how strong it could be between where it is and where it tries to land."
At least five members are strapped into the Hurricane Hunters aircraft for each one of the flight missions. Those missions can last up to 14 hours. Meteorologists use that data collected to make informed decisions.
"When there's a hurricane that's rapidly intensifying, the aircraft being in there helps us to keep up with that," Knabb said. "Sometimes we issue a special advisory to update people on what has changed, based on the aircraft. That can directly affect who is told to evacuate in land areas as the hurricane approaches."
The tour visit to the tristate area is meant to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for the upcoming hurricane season, which begins June 1.