Gloss paint on Super Hercules storm chasers saves money for hurricane chasers


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Hurricane Hunters from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, are changing their WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to a paint scheme that will last longer and save money. (Jessica Kendziorek/US Air Force)

Hurricane Hunters from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron are changing the look of their fleet of WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to a paint scheme that will last longer and save money.

The first of 10 WC-130J aircraft returned April 5 to Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, sporting a high-gloss paint job and historic “Weather” tail markings, according to an Air Force release this that day.

The squadron has floated the idea of ​​returning to the high-gloss heritage look of the tactical gray paint scheme, Lt. Col. Erik Olson, director of operations for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, told Stars and Stripes via e-mail. email Friday.

“It helped that it had the benefit of nominal fuel economy and a significantly reduced maintenance burden,” he said. “The decision was approved by our Wing Commander, Col. Stuart Rubio, and forwarded to Air Force Materiel Command and Depot for approval and action.”

Hurricane Hunters from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, are changing their WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to a paint scheme that will last longer and save money.

Hurricane Hunters from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, are changing their WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft to a paint scheme that will last longer and save money. (Jessica Kendziorek/US Air Force)

The squadron maintenance section found that tactical gray required touch-up paint on the wing leading edges and vertical fin after every two-week storm rotation, compared to three to four rotations for gloss gray .

“The gloss gray paint scheme held up much better in the weather during hurricane season than our current tactical gray paint scheme,” said Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Connors, manufacturing flight leader for the 403rd MXS, said in the Air Force release. “And when it comes to maintenance and touch-up paint, gloss gray lasts longer.”

The longer-lasting gloss paint means more aircraft missions between maintenance breaks and less fuel burn, which translates into maintenance and fuel cost savings, Olson said.

Performance records show that Super Hercules with bright paint burn about 40 pounds less fuel per flight hour, or 400 to 500 pounds per mission. At about 3,000 flying hours per plane per year, that’s a savings of 120,000 to 150,000 pounds of fuel each year, he said.

Hurricane Hunters provide monitoring — sometimes direct flight — for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and central Pacific Ocean for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The unit also conducts winter storm missions off both coasts of the United States, according to the Air Force.

“The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron are an extremely dedicated group of people – they are committed to the mission of flying into dangerous storms to gather information that leads to better forecasts and warnings to protect lives and property,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman Michael Brennan told Stars and Stripes via email Friday.

“Aircraft observations of wind, temperature, humidity and pressure are directly used by the models to improve their analysis of the storm and lead to 10-15% improvements in track forecasts and 15-20 % of intensity forecast,” he said.

In 2021, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew 85 missions in support of the National Hurricane Center, Olson said.

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