LAKELAND (FOX 13) - NOAA's famed Hurricane Hunters are getting a new home, but they won't be going far. The agency's Aircraft Operations Center will be moving from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in time for the 2017 hurricane season.
The city of Lakeland announced the move today, adding that the move would bring over 100 "high skill, high wage employees" to the airport.
The NOAA team consists of two WP-3D Orion planes and a Gulfstream IV jet, known best for hurricane research flights. But they also fly six other aircraft as part of their year-round mission to conduct airborne environmental data-gathering missions, such as marine mammal population studies, shoreline change assessments, water resource and snow surveys, and air chemistry studies.
The Hurricane Hunters have been based at MacDill since 1993, but the busy base needs the room. MacDill also hosts U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, in addition to the 6th Air Mobility Wing.
Several potential sites were examined, but Sen. Bill Nelson had insisted that the team stay in the Bay Area.
The Air Force's Hurricane Hunter squad, known officially as the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, will remain at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. They generally share hurricane flight duty with NOAA.