Stormchasers: The Hurricane Hunters and Their Fateful Flight into Hurricane Janet

Stormchasers: The Hurricane Hunters and Their Fateful Flight into Hurricane Janet

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by David M. Toomey, David Toomey
     
 

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Fifty years after Isaac's Storm, a riveting story of the first Hurricane Hunters, and the one crew who paid the ultimate price. In September 1955, Navy Lieutenant Commander Grover B. Windham and a crew of eight flew out of Guantanamo Bay into the eye of Hurricane Janet swirling in the Caribbean: a routine weather reconnaissance mission from which they never

Overview

Fifty years after Isaac's Storm, a riveting story of the first Hurricane Hunters, and the one crew who paid the ultimate price. In September 1955, Navy Lieutenant Commander Grover B. Windham and a crew of eight flew out of Guantanamo Bay into the eye of Hurricane Janet swirling in the Caribbean: a routine weather reconnaissance mission from which they never returned. In the wake of World War II, the Air Force and the Navy had discovered a new civilian arena where daring pilots could test their courage and skill. These Hurricane Hunters flew into raging storms to gauge their strength and predict their paths. Without computer, global positioning, or satellite support, they relied on rudimentary radar systems to locate the hurricane's eye and estimated the drift of their aircraft by looking at windblown waves below. Drawing from Navy documents and interviews with members of the squadron and relatives of the crew, Stormchasers reconstructs the ill-fated mission of Windham's crew from preflight checks to the chilling moment of their final transmission. 16 pages of b/w photographs.

Author Biography: David Toomey is a visiting assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, teaching technical writing and creative nonfiction, and co-author of Amelia Earhart's Daughters.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
The first aerial hurricane hunters flew with little more than courage on their wings. Without computers, global positioning systems, or satellite support, they bumped and throttled toward the eye of great storms with only rudimentary radar to guide them. In September 1955, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Grover B. Windham Jr. and a crew of eight flew out of Cuba's Guantánamo Bay into the throbbing maelstrom of Hurricane Janet. They never returned from this "routine" mission into the heart of a 110-mile-an-hour storm. Using Navy documents and original interviews, David Toomey has re-created this ill-fated flight, from pre-takeoff checks to the last chilling radio transmission.
Library Journal
Toomey is an English professor who also teaches technical writing and coauthored Amelia Earhart's Daughters. So he seems like the right man to take on the post-World War II fighter pilots who happily volunteered to fly into hurricanes with occasionally lethal consequences. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sturdy revivification of one star-crossed hurricane-hunting mission by Navy fliers, plus a more general (and more gratifying) history of hurricanes. As Toomey (Amelia Earhart's Daughters, 1998) sketches it out for readers, the post-WWII period was the first time that it was possible to make aerial reconnaissance of violent weather, thanks to the wealth of trained pilots and advances in technology. These were the Hurricane Hunters, and in their 30-year history, only one plane was lost. Toomey weaves the story of that crew's final flight throughout this narrative, but it fails to prompt much excitement, mainly because Toomey has refused to take any creative liberties with the flight-it is not known what happened to the plane, whether wind shear or downdraft or flooded engines caused it to crash-and his conjectures are kept to a few terse pages. Vest-pocket biographies of the fliers aren't enough to provoke much human interest, either. What keeps the story afloat are descriptions of the gathering storm-Hurricane Janet, with monster winds-and a broad look at hurricanes through history. Toomey charts the early research and then closely follows all the academic beard-pulling of the following decades over the nature of hurricanes. The storm work of Robert Hare, William Redfield, Vilhelm Bjerknes, and Lewis Richardson is handily covered, though Toomey occasionally gets in over his head, as in brief forays into the nature of turbulence and fluid dynamics. Finally, we still know little about the storms: Questions both small (why the air in the eye is warmer than the air in the surrounding clouds) and large (the nature of the interactions among the storm's components) still confoundmeteorologists. What Toomey most neatly taps into is that strange moment in time when storm-hunting made sense, when a few years earlier such missions would have been logistically and technologically impossible, and a few years later advances in technology would make such flights, at the least, quixotic. (16 pages of photographs) Author tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393020007
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
07/01/2002
Edition description:
1ST
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.08(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.10(d)

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Stormchasers: The Hurricane Hunters and Their Fateful Flight into Hurricane Janet 2.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
boring on the way in, and then you have to fight to get through it. The bulk of the book deals with the history of attempts to understand hurricanes; the tale of a doomed flight provides narrative continuity. I know quite a bit about some of the history discussed, and despite (or perhaps because of) the jargon, a lot of it is wrong -- which makes me wonder about the accuracy of the parts about which I know less. It is also full of careless errors (e.g., typos, use of the wrong homonym, obvious mistakes in converting between Celsius and Fahrenheit, casual references to things that don't get described until later in the book). What annoyed me most, though, were some of the creative liberties taken with this "creative nonfiction" (as the jacket bio calls it): pseudoscientific assertions and distortions of fact made to achieve literary ends. It may be that the flight's open-endedness just is not compelling enough, and its historical context just too limited, to make this an engrossing story. Or maybe it needs a different author. As this genre goes, it's a disappointing book: poorly edited and (in my opinion) of questionable accuracy in the historical details. The preface and prologue should satisfy your curiosity, unless you want all the details of the flight in question. Even then, life is too short to read bad books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a whole lot. I read his (Toomey's) other one, too--Amelia Earhart's Daughters and liked it. I hope he keeps writing stuff about aviation history. He really knows how to get your attention and keep it.