The WC-130J Hercules aircraft from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron departed Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET.
The one time my soul left my body, I was on the flight deck with the pilots. It was dark for the majority of our flight. The lightning was so intense, and the hail hitting the plane was so intense.
“We’re about to go through the eye wall,” a crew member said.
I’m sitting up there with the pilots. We’re rocking and swaying, and all of a sudden, the flight controls start screaming, “Check Altitude. Check Altitude. Check Altitude. Throttle up. Throttle up.” And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this is what happens in the movies.’
And those pilots were just cool, calm and collected, and steered us through it. It was amazing. We had one moment where we dropped really rapidly because we hit a pocket and everybody on the plane literally levitated. We were kind of airborne.
We went from Category 2 to Category 4 in a short amount of time. We were in the eye of the storm for a good eight hours. Just zigzagging in and out, penetrating different parts of the eye wall and then going back into the eye. We knew we were in the eye and that’s when everybody kind of got up. They would get a drink of water.
In the eye itself, it was super calm. There was no turbulence. As soon as we started to rock a little bit everybody ran back to their jump seats and sat down. As we’re crisscrossing in and out, you can feel every time we reentered the eye wall. You could feel the intensity of the turbulence a little bit more, then a little bit more, and a little bit more. Every time.
Everybody’s job is so vital to the mission and so crucial to the safety of that flight that they can’t stop when there’s turbulence. They have to keep doing what they need to do. It was serious. It was all business. Hours later, the aircraft approached Keesler over the glistening water and landed safely.
It felt good to be back on solid ground.