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I In The I By
Paul Rollins

The Association
of Naval Aviation


Navy League
 

     
 

Date: Mon Jul 7  2003
Paul Rollins wrote:

I thought you might enjoy the attached short essay I wrote as a twenty minute exercise in a writing class. The words and memories just flowed out as I recalled the experience. It reflects my memory of flying into the eye of a hurricane when I was a pilot with VW-4 from 1965-67.

All the best,
Paul Rollins
VW-4 , '65-'67

Pilot in Command

or

I in the Eye

By Paul Rollins

We are still 100 miles out and already the giant, Super Constellation is starting to roll and buffet as we fly towards the eye of the massive hurricane. For me, it’s the worst part; I tend to get airsick when I’m not actually at the controls. But not this time; I can’t. It might look bad. The crew might doubt my ability. Their trust must be absolute…lives are on the line.

The Radarman barks out…”40 miles to the eye”. Tensions mount; preparations are made. The intercom cracks as the Plane Commander reads the checklist. The 30-man crew buckles in; gear is stowed, nervous chatter slows. I take over the left cockpit seat now; pull on my leather gloves and secure the shoulder harness extra tight. The adrenalin pounds through my body….my first time as Pilot-In-Command on a low-level hurricane penetration flight.

“Cockpit from Radar…10 miles to the eye.”  I check my shoulder harness and grip the yoke with two hands as the aircraft pounds through the turbulence. The aircraft buffets more and more with each moment as we continue to parallel the counter clockwise flow of the hurricane winds.

“Cockpit, 5 miles to the eye; turn left to 270 degrees; I’m losing radar signal”. “Roger” I reply, “Control is now with the rear observer.” I bank the giant bird to heading 270….directly towards the eye of the storm. Altitude instruments are worthless in these conditions….taped over to avoid confusion. “Roger, I have the con,” responds the senior enlisted man seated at the bubble window at the rear of the aircraft. “Descend a 100 feet; I’ve lost contact with the water”.

I drop the nose slightly and descend to about 500 feet. I can see the raging waves. I call for more power and the Flight Engineer responds. The four propeller engines roar as we approach maximum power. Again from the rear observer, “I’ve lost contact with the water”… comes over my headset. I drop to 400 feet. I swear I could reach out and touch the waves. “Come left 5 degrees; wind 150 knots; 2 miles to the eye” barks the excited observer.

Need more power; we are losing airspeed. The engines roar as I call out… “max power.” I am wet with sweat. All my strength now just to control the aircraft. The copilot adds his strength to the yoke. The windshield fogs over with the heat of our efforts. “1 mile to the eye; left 2 degrees; wind 165 knots”.  300 Feet off the water now…. waves are white froth.

One-quarter mile to the eye. One more surge; one more effort to wrench the yoke from my white grip and the storm submits. We roar through the storm wall like an escaping beast. Suddenly…. perfect calm. We’ve broken through to the eye. We are in the eye of the storm…and we are safe…this time, at least. I reduce power and sink heavy into my seat. I’ve done it; I’ve done it. I am a hurricane virgin no more. I am a Navy Hurricane Hunter Pilot.

The air is perfectly smooth and I can see for miles. I smile with satisfaction. It was a piece of cake. Life is good.