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Stormchasers: The Hurricane Hunters and Their Fateful Flight Into Hurricane Janet
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Stormchasers: The Hurricane Hunters and Their Fateful Flight Into Hurricane Janet [Hardcover]

David Toomey
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 2002
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 - a routine weather reconnaissance mission from which they never returned. In the wake of World War II, the Air Force and the Navy discovered new civilian arenas where pilots could test their courage and skill - weather reconnaissance was one of them. Hurricane hunters flew into raging storms to gauge their strength and predict their paths. Without the modern technology of the 21st century they relied on rudimentary radar systems to locate the hurricane's eye and estimated the drift of their aircraft by looking at the windblown waves below. Drawing from Navy documents and interviews with members of the squadron and relatives of the crew, this book reconstructs the ill-fated mission, from preflight checks to the moment of their final transmission.

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Editorial Reviews

From 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Using the 1955 disappearance of a navy weather plane inside a hurricane as his reference point, Toomey roams about the presatellite history of research into the tempests. Knowledge about hurricanes was so rudimentary that determining their cyclonic structure was considered progress. From that discovery in the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, advances in knowledge and forecasting were modest. By interspersing the history of hurricane research with the preparations of the ill-fated navy crew, Toomey effectively points out how insufficient understanding of meteorological conditions impelled weather planes to fly in such dangerous conditions. Besides the informative technical coverage about hurricane behavior, the twin-engine Neptune plane, and its weather instrumentation, Toomey delivers an understated narrative that ennobles crew members. He doesn't inflate basic information that's known about them, and alludes to their awareness of the perils in their assignment. Toomey's dramatization of scenarios of what might have happened to the crew--a ditching in the storm's eye or midair wing failure--will keep readers rapt. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393020002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393020007
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,070,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Stormchaser" needs a "Wordchaser" August 21, 2002
For anyone who has ever been fascinated by airplanes, by meteorology, by weird and anomalous weather, "Stormchasers" is an excellent read. And for anyone who has ever been fascinated by weird and anomalous proofreading, it's even better. It all began to unravel on page 49 when I was told of the airplane "hangers" being constructed in Jacksonville. My first image was of gigantic wire objects on which airframes were hung to keep from wrinkling. When the word appeared again a few pages later, I finally checked my dictionary, aware that words sometimes become part of the language through years of misuse. Such was not the case. Apparently the proofreader figured this out after a while too, for as the book moved forward, "hangers" transmogrified into "hangars" and all was well. Except, later, in reference to the hurricane hunters, I was told that no one's interest had been "peaked." And all the time I kept saying to myself, "poor David Toomey." Here's a man whose powers of research and attention to detail seem inexhaustible, whose ability to reconstruct the events of that day (as well as the hundreds of years of storm study that preceded it) are beyond dispute, but whose reputation is ambushed at every turn by sloppy proofreading.
The book, in the end, is excellent, both dramatically and scientifically. We gain an intimate knowledge of the plane's crew while being schooled in the history of modern (and sometimes ancient) meteorology. Best of all, Toomey clearly delineates life inside a P2V Neptune flying through the wall and eye of an Atlantic hurricane; and even though the title divulges the ending, it does not diminish the tension or suspense.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weather Tragedy and History November 14, 2002
Before satellite weather photos, the main way of getting information on Atlantic and Caribbean hurricanes was to fly airplanes into them. It is still being done, for it is still the best means for getting the exact location of a hurricane and details such as its speed and direction. In the more than half century of countless such patrols, only one aircraft and crew have been lost. Their story is told in _Stormchasers: The Hurricane Hunters and Their Fateful Flight into Hurricane Janet_ (Norton) by David Toomey. Toomey has gone back to look at Navy documents, interviewed members of the former Weather Reconnaissance Squadron to which the flight belonged, and talked with members of the crew's families. The book has a framework of a reconstruction of the mission of the September 1955 flight, and does so with as much detail as could possibly be gathered so many years on. The story might in itself be a little thin, but Toomey has as well given a broader picture of the history of hurricane science and general meteorology.
Reports of hurricanes at sea began to become practical after ships got radios; the first wireless report of a hurricane was in 1909. The program of reporting storms was a victim of its own success; ships' captains so well knew the danger of hurricanes that one report would send all ships steaming away from the source, making further data collection impossible. No one seriously proposed flying an airplane into a hurricane, because no one knew what such a flying environment would be like. The first flight into a hurricane was performed on a bet, in 1943, and afterwards other pilots wanted to try, and meteorological data started being taken. By 1955, the Weather Bureau, Navy, and Air Force had been sending official flights into massive storms for about a decade.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
David Toomey's well researched book has an astounding wealth of information that is both stunning in detail and fascinating in every aspect. This book drew my attention because of my own obsession with hurricanes, having been through several in North Carolina,(to include Fran, Bonnie,and Floyd ). During Floyd we were in the eye of the storm at night and went out and looked up into a clear, silent sky and watched as suddenly a hurricane hunter flew overhead, the only sound at all.
David Toomey details the thoughts that went into the changing views of weatheras a philosophy and the evolution into the science of meteorology. This transformation from philosophy to science is interesting. Weather phenomena was thought to be only a local event and the idea that weather traveled from one area to another was not even imagined. The idea of weather patterns was a foreign concept as well. Toomey details this transformation which spans the continents, including battles of very differing ideas. The leap in the quantity of scientific data and reliability of it's use from the the 1950's to present time is amazing.
This scientific evolution was also a big push in the development of computers, originally called a "calculating clock"(in 1623), then "stepped reckoner" (1673), and then a giant leap to the "Difference Engine" in the 1830's. This subject in and of itself would have been a great subject.
Throughout all of this history of meteorology, the key aspect of this book centers on the people that flew into the hurricanes to obtain the data that would revolutionize hurricane forecasting. Their lives are opened and the picture that is viewed is of normal, everyday men. They saw their mission in life and pursued it, even in the face of daunting odds and tremendous danger.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational
I personally saw Snowbird 5 return to NAS JAX, Fl. with her starboard engine on fire. The standby aircraft took off never to return. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Wilber Rea
5.0 out of 5 stars Technology has a way of numbing us to history
Stormchasers by David Toomey

"Technology has a way of numbing us to history. It is easy to take for granted the comforts made possible by science and engineering, and... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Paul Brooks
4.0 out of 5 stars HORRIFYING SCENARIO
Most of us have wondered, at some point or other, what it would be like to be caught out in the ocean during a major hurricane. Read more
Published on June 28, 2012 by Severin Olson
An excellent read. He has researched the subject well. His writing style seems to be very descriptive and presented well. I think he could have added a couple of maps. Read more
Published on August 20, 2010 by Craig Dokken
5.0 out of 5 stars "There are bold pilots and there are old pilots,but there are no...
This book has a lot more to it than suggested by its dust jacket. Rather than just a number of experiences by a few of the crews who fly into hurricanes to learn more about them;it... Read more
Published on July 2, 2006 by J. Guild
5.0 out of 5 stars Stormchasers
This glimpse into 1940's and 50's Navy airmen's exploration of hurricanes is fascinating reading, from a scientific and a human perspective. Read more
Published on December 18, 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars "Stormchaser" needs a "Wordchaser"
For anyone who has ever been fascinated by airplanes, by meteorology, by weird and anomalous weather, "Stormchasers" is an excellent read. Read more
Published on August 21, 2002 by C. Radda
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