NOAA provides a wide range of specialized airborne environmental data collection capabilities vital to understanding the Earth, conserving and managing coastal and marine resources, and protecting lives and property.
NOAA’s fleet of nine manned aircraft is operated, managed and maintained by NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center (AOC), part NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. Located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, AOC serves as the main base for OMAO’s aircraft fleet and provides capable, mission-ready aircraft and professional crews to the scientific community. AOC is committed to the safe, efficient and economical use of NOAA aircraft and has more than four decades of experience developing, coordinating and successfully and safely conducting airborne environmental data gathering missions.
The agency’s two Lockheed WP-3D Orion “hurricane hunter" aircraft, together with NOAA's Gulfstream IV-SP, significantly enhance our understanding of hurricanes and improve the accuracy of tropical cyclone forecasts. Uniquely equipped with tail Doppler radar and the ability to deploy weather data-gathering probes in flight, these highly capable and versatile aircraft also support atmospheric and air chemistry studies.
NOAA's light aircraft also play a vital role in monitoring our environment. Operating nationwide, NOAA’s Beechcraft King Air, Gulfstream Jet Prop Commander and De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft support marine mammal population studies, shoreline change assessments, water resource and snow surveys, air chemistry studies, remote sensing projects, and emergency response. NOAA also operates unmanned aircraft systems used to observe marine life, seabirds and their habitat.