The $1.3 trillion spending package Congress released late Wednesday included $122 million long sought by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to purchase a reliable backup for its aging hurricane hunter jet.
The funding comes in the wake of several incidents over the last two hurricane seasons when the jet NOAA uses to gather hurricane measurements was grounded due to maintenance issues.
“It’s long past time for NOAA to get a suitable replacement for its aging hurricane hunter jet,” Nelson said after learning appropriators had included the money in the broader spending plan. “I’ve been relentless on this because 20 million Floridians are in the potential path of a hurricane and the data from this aircraft saves lives and property.” Nelson has been pushing for a replacement since 2015.
NOAA maintains a fleet of three aircraft currently based in Lakeland, Florida. The planes are designed to fly in and around hurricanes and tropical storms, collecting data used to track and measure the intensity of these powerful storms.
NOAA’s current fleet of hurricane hunters include two P3 propeller aircraft, known as Miss Piggy and Kermit, that fly into storms, but only one Gulfstream jet, named Gonzo, capable of reaching altitudes high enough to fly above storms.
The measurements taken by Hurricane Hunters are essential to weather forecasters.
The $1.3 trillion spending bill, which funds the government through September 30, must pass by Friday for Congress avert another government shutdown this year.
Below is the hurricane hunter language added to the bill.
NOAA Aircraft Recapitalization.-The agreement adopts the Senate language regarding aircraft recapitalization and provides $133,000,000 for this purpose. Within funds provided, $121,000,000 is included to procure a suitable replacement for the Gulfstream IV-SP (G-IV) Hurricane Hunter in order to meet the requirements of section 413 of Public Law 115-25 and ensure back up capabilities.