NOAA needs back-up hurricane hunter planes, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto insist.
The pair of Democratic Florida lawmakers – Soto is from Orlando – have introduced bills requiring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to buy and maintain back-up planes.
“Right now we only have one set, so if there is a problem we could be deeply exposed to hurricanes in Florida or anywhere in the southeast United States,” Soto said.
On Tuesday he filed House Resolution 1008 calling for NOAA to “secure and maintain secondary backup capability for each class of hurricane reconnaissance, research, surveillance and response aircraft sufficient to prevent a single point of failure.” Last month Nelson filed a similar bill in the U.S. Senate. Both bills authorize the appropriation of necessary funds.
NOAA already has two so-called “hurricane hunter” aircraft, Lockheed WP-3D Orion four-engine turboprops that can fly into hurricanes to probe wind and pressure changes. It has only one Gulfstream IV-SP jet, which flies above storms to collect data on the weather systems in the upper atmosphere surrounding developing hurricanes. They all fly out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
Soto said he expects the bills have a good chance of approval in the next few weeks, possibly as part of a bigger package. Nelson’s bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, on which he is ranking member. Soto’s bill has not yet been read.
This is the first time Florida’s senior senator and the freshman congressman from Orlando have worked together on legislation.