NOAA Orders Gulfstream G550 For Hurricane Hunter Fleet

The new jet will join a fleet of nine aircraft.

Gulfstream G550
A Gulfstream G550 like this one will soon join NOAA's hurricane hunting efforts.Gulfstream Aerospace

Say the words "Hurricane Hunters," and you evoke a vivid movie featuring daring pilots flying the best equipment into the maw of all manner of storms to capture data that will develop understanding about their nature—and save lives. The division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) responsible for these missions is the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Nine aircraft make up the fleet, which has a base in Lakeland, Florida, and includes two Lockheed WP-3D Orions and a Gulfstream IV-SP, a special G-IV outfitted for special missions.

Gulfstream Aerospace announced this week that its G550 will soon join NOAA's fleet. The jet will support the organization's continuing weather forecasting and research programs, including those operations focused on hurricanes and tropical storms. The aircraft's maximum range of 6,750 nm and long-range cruise speed of Mach 0.80 makes it well suited to operations requiring fast time-to-climb and endurance. Since the next storm, Dorian, reached hurricane strength on Wednesday, August 28, the mission appears to be even more timely than ever.

A spokesman for the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, Lt. Conor Maginn, elaborated, from the midst of hurricane ops: “The G550 is very similar to the G-IV with enhanced range, altitude, and payload-carrying capacity. The G550 is expected to perform all of the mission functions that the G-IV can, with the added capabilities due to its G550 enhancements. Final instrumentation configuration of the G550 has not been determined. As appropriate, the G550 will be outfitted with similar or identical systems or instruments as other NOAA aircraft. NOAA’s Gulfstream IV, N49RF, will remain in service and continue to fulfill its role as an environmental data-gathering platform. They will continue to fly together.”

The G550 joins Gulfstream aircraft that have supported special government and military missions since 1967, with more than 200 in service in 40 countries around the world detailed to these operations.