Military Aviation

USAF Punishes Hurricane Hunters WC-130J Super Hercules crew for unplanned stop in Martha’s Vineyard Airport to pick up 1970 BMW motorcycle

On Mar. 25, 2022 a WC-130J Super Hercules belonging to the US Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 403rd Wing, stopped at Martha’s Vineyard Airport scooped up a motorcycle, and continued on its way.

Members of the Mississippi Gulf Coast-based Hurricane Hunters have been disciplined after their plane made an unauthorized stop to pick up a crew member’s personal motorcycle.

As we have previously reported, on Mar. 25, 2022 a WC-130J Super Hercules belonging to the US Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 403rd Wing, Keesler Air Force Base (AFB), Mississippi stopped at Martha’s Vineyard Airport scooped up a motorcycle, and continued on its way.

According to AP News, the five-member crew was spotted briefly stopping in Martha’s Vineyard to load a vintage motorcycle, a 1970 BMW R75/5, onto their plane before continuing their assignment to California.

The motorcycle belonged to a crew member. A social media post from Doug Ulwick, who was patronizing the Plane View Restaurant at Martha’s Vineyard Airport on Mar. 25, said in a social media post that the plane was at the airport “probably not more than 15 minutes.”

The aircraft clearly read “Hurricane Hunters” on its tail.

Members of the 403rd Wing aircrew responsible for the stop have faced “both administrative and aircrew qualification-related discipline for misuse of a WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft,” Lt. Col. Marnee Losurdo, said in a news release on May 10.

“The personal stop was an abuse of government assets,” said Col. Stuart M. Rubio, the 403rd Wing commander. “We hold our reservists to the highest standards of conduct and these actions are not tolerated.”

The news release said that the crew left Keesler AFB on Mar. 24 and landed at Quonset Air National Guard Base in Rhode Island. Without their superiors’ knowledge, the next day the crew made a detour to Martha’s Vineyard before continuing their assigned mission, which was to pick up equipment from Mather, California.

According to the news release, “Once leadership was notified of the incident March 27, they grounded the crew at Mather, and sent another crew to pick up the aircraft and crew (on) March 28. The motorcycle remains in California.”

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, a component of the 403rd Wing located at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., is a one-of-a-kind organization. It is the only operational unit in the world flying weather reconnaissance on a routine basis.

The mission of the Hurricane Hunters is to recruit, organize and train assigned personnel to perform aerial weather reconnaissance. They provide surveillance of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the central Pacific Ocean for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The unit also flies winter storm missions off both coasts of the United States.

To perform their mission, the Hurricane Hunters have 10 WC-130J aircraft. These Super Hercules aircraft are equipped with palletized meteorological data-gathering instruments. The WC-130J is the next generation “Hurricane Hunter” designed to continue weather reconnaissance well into the 21st century.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  • The Squadron authorising Officer should have annotated this extra leg as ‘Further training opportunity for the aircrew to carry out an approach, utilising the airfield’s unique Navigation facilities, followed by a full-stop landing and QTR. SOP departure and rejoin the original Flight Plan.

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