Today in weather history: First person flies into eye of hurricane

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On July 27, 1943, U.S. Air Force Colonel Joseph Duckworth became the first person to intentionally fly into the eye of a hurricane.

Accompanied by Lt. Ralph O'Hair, Duckworth flew a single-engine AT-6 trainer into the eye of the storm, located between Houston and Galveston.

After landing safely, Col. Duckworth described his trip into the heart of the storm, which appeared in the November 1943 Monthly Weather Review.

"As we broke into the 'eye' of the storm we... could see the sun and the ground. Apparently the 'eye' was like a leaning cone as observation of the ground showed a considerable ground wind.... On the whole, neither flight through the hurricane was as uncomfortable as a good, rough thunderstorm. Rain had been encountered in thunderstorms which was heavier that the rain in the hurricane, to say nothing of much more severe drafts and choppy and bumpy air."

When this flight took place during World War II, Weather Bureau (now known as the National Weather Service) relied almost exclusively on reports from ships at sea to alert the public when tropical storms were approaching.  Satellite imagery had not even been invented and radar coverage was not what it is today.

Now airplane reconnaissance is standard when learning about the strength of hurricanes.  Air Force pilots in specially designed planes routinely fly directly into Category 5 storms.