FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The first hurricane hunter flight 70 years ago this week was made on a bet — that the plane flying into the eye of a storm would be ripped apart in violent winds.
And all the daredevil pilot stood to win was a highball whiskey cocktail. He also faced a reprimand from senior officers.
Determined to prove a point, Army Air Corps Lt. Col. Joseph Duckworth ignored the perils and aimed the small AT-6 “Texan” trainer into a storm about to hit Galveston, Texas, on July 27, 1943. His navigator, Lt. Ralph O’Hair, would later describe the flight as “being tossed about like a stick in a dog’s mouth.” […]
The AT-6 Texan was used as a trainer during and after World War II. In 1943 to counteract joking by Allied pilots at an instrument flying school that the trainer was “frail,” Col. Joseph Duckworth flew into a Category I hurricane to prove its worth.