people. politics. current events. books. columns.
THE HURRICANE HUNTER
A NOAA pilot finds his calling in the skies
BY JEFF CIRILLO
HUNDREDS OF MILES OFF the coast of
New Jersey, pilot Mark Sweeney was flying
blind. ;ick gray clouds and driving rain
blocked the view from the airplane as it
hopped through intense 100 mph winds.
Sweeney relied on the plane’s radar systems to chart a safe path as he charged
toward the eye of Hurricane Sandy in
2012. ;e harsh weather gave way to
sunshine and near silence as the plane
punched into the eye, Sweeney recalls.
The bright sun projected the plane’s
shadow onto the Atlantic Ocean some
10,000 feet below. Apart from a few stray
clouds, the 20-person crew was alone
inside the eye’s towering white funnel-shaped walls. At roughly 25 miles across,
standard for a Category 2 hurricane,