A federal judge in Tampa, Fla., has ordered the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration not to fly its Gulfstream jet into hurricanes until negotiations with union meteorologists are finished. The recently issued order does not prevent research and forecasting flights around hurricanes in the jet, which the agency has flown since 1996 to measure conditions around storms at 45,000 feet to help forecasters predict a hurricane’s track and strength. Last year, the jet flew into a hurricane three times. The agency’s P-3 Orions, larger, four-engine propeller aircraft, fly into storms and are not affected by the judgment. Representatives of the National Weather Service Employees Organization say that flying through storms changes their working conditions.
Judge Richard Pearson did not say the Gulfstream was unsafe to take into hurricanes, but ruled that flying through storms is more hazardous than flying around them and must be negotiated with the union.