Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hurricanes keep new NOAA Aircraft Operations leader busy

Capt. Nancy Hann


LAKELAND — Friday was a hectic day for NOAA Corps Capt. Nancy Hann to start her new job as commander of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aircraft Operations Center at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

Two of the agency’s planes were in Texas for crews to take high-resolution images of Hurricane Harvey flood damage, images that are being used by emergency management agencies as they continue evacuation and disaster operations.

Two other planes and 40 workers had just returned from tracking Harvey and were being readied for Saturday’s deployment to Barbados to provide around-the-clock tracking and research on fast-developing Hurricane Irma, which is out in the Atlantic moving west.

There was a change of command event Thursday for Hann, who took over management of the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center from the outgoing commander, Michael Silah. Silah had been in charge of the center since March 2016 and had overseen the recent move from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa to Lakeland Linder.

The move to Lakeland was completed over the summer and now all nine weather-observation aircraft, an array of scientific equipment and 110 employees are operating out of here, Hann said.

The 58,000-square-foot aircraft hangar and office facility on the airport’s Flightline Drive is home base for uniformed members of NOAA and civilian workers.

Currently, the center’s Hurricane Harvey mission involves a Twin Otter and a Beachcraft King, each with crews of two pilots and a sensor operator, surveying flooding around Houston, Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange, Hann said.

The data and high-resolution photos will help “FEMA, and state and local emergency management agencies decide how to spend limited resources,” she said.

The deployment today of two large WP-3D Orions (P-3s) will put crews in place for around-the-clock operations providing continuous real-time data feeds about Hurricane Irma for the National Hurricane Center’s forecasts, Hann said.

“The P-3s fly through the hurricane, generally at 7,000 to 10,000 feet. They pass directly through the eyewall and then come back through the eyewall, usually working in quadrants.”

The crews deploy devices into the storm that collect information on temperature, wind speed and humidity, which comes back to the aircraft for interpretation and then is transmitted to the National Hurricane Center, Hann said

The crews consist of pilots, flight engineers, technicians and scientists to run specialized equipment, she said.

“We work 12-hour shifts,” she said. “The flights are eight to nine hours long and there is a two-hour-long preflight process.

“To finish Harvey, come back to Lakeland and take care of some maintenance, then go to work on Irma is definitely keeping us busy,” Hann said.

Adding to the hectic pace at the center, “a Gulfstream IV (G-4) aircraft is on standby for surveillance for Hurricane Irma,” Hann said.

She described the G-4 has a “high-altitude jet that does research above and around the storm — collecting information about the intensification and track of the storm.”

The G-4 studies the weather in front of the storm, the high- and low-pressure systems, to develop information about where the storm will go and how fast, she said.

“This is an extraordinary work force that is highly specialized and talented,” Hann said. “The information we provide to the nation and to forecasts is because of the dedication of the work force.”

While the focus recently has been on the center’s work researching and tracking hurricanes, the center also researches water forecasts, such as snowmelt and impact on soil and runoff, and other weather conditions, including tornadoes, and air chemistry, Hann said.

Hann last served as chief of staff for the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations.

And Silah, who was promoted last month from captain to rear admiral, is the now leading the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, as well as the uniformed NOAA Corps. That means he is responsible for the agency’s fleet of research and survey ships, as well as the research aircraft.

“Capt. Silah’s service as AOC’s commanding officer has been exemplary, and we thank him for his dedication and leadership,” Rear Adm. David A. Score, who is retiring as director of OMAO and the NOAA Corps, said in a news release.

“NOAA’s aircraft operations will also be well-served by Capt. Hann, a proven leader who is committed to the safety and success of every mission NOAA flies on behalf of the nation,” Score said.

Hann has been executive officer at the NOAA Marine Operations Center-Atlantic, associate director at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and NOAA liaison to the U.S. Pacific Command.

She has worked as a pilot and flight meteorologist on NOAA aircraft, has been a project manager, and served aboard NOAA ships supporting fisheries surveys and oceanographic research.

Her education includes a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, a master’s degree in aeronautical science and space studies from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and a bachelor’s degree in marine science and biology from the University of San Diego. And, she is a certified diver and has made numerous scientific dives.

Story and photo gallery ➤ http://www.newschief.com

No comments: