The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA)
Aircraft Operations Center was born as the Research
Flight Facility (RFF) in 1961. The U.S. Weather
Bureau's National Hurricane Research Project,
of which RFF. was originally a part, funded the
acquisition of two Douglas DC-6 aircraft, a B-57A
and a DC-4 to support its multifaceted atmospheric
research programs which included the early attempts
to modify hurricanes. This project, called
Stormfury was a joint effort of the Weather Bureau
and the Department of Defense to learn more about
hurricanes to be able to say whether their intensity
could be decreased through dynamic cloud seeding
in order to achieve beneficial results. In
1970, a WC-130B was obtained on loan from the U.S.
Air Force to further enhance this program.
Richard M. Nixon, proposed the creation of the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in July of
1970. His goal was to unify the nations scientific
efforts under one agency. NOAA would provide
scientific and technical services to other federal
agencies, private sector research interests and
the general public. The National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration became a reality in October
of 1970. NOAA was tasked with the responsibility
to predict changes in the oceans, atmosphere and
living marine resources. The data gathered
by NOAA would be shared by other government agencies,
the research community, private industry and the
the 1960s and early 1970s, the Research Flight Facility's
aircraft, operating from Miami International Airport
engaged in many atmospheric research projects spanning
the globe from the Arctic to India and West Africa.
It also continued with the Stormfury project until
it was recognized that aircraft with better performance
characteristics and more sophisticated instrumentation
would be required to successfully achieve the goals
of the project. To this end, two WP-3D Orion
turbine powered aircraft were ordered from the Lockheed
California Company in 1973.
1975 the facility was combined with a unit from
the Environmental Research Laboratories to form
the Research Facilities Center, an organization
that provided both airborne platform and engineering
capabilities to NOAA's research community.
In 1975 and 1976 the RFC received the two new WP-3D
research aircraft and replaced the aging DC-6, B-57A
and DC-4 aircraft.
1983, the Office of Aircraft Operations (OAO) was
created to consolidate all of the aviation assets
operated by NOAA. The OAO was charged with
managing NOAA aircraft, personnel, budget, facilities
and the charter of aircraft in support of NOAA aircraft
programs. By the mid 1980s, the OAO consisted
of two WP-3D Orions, a DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter,
a Beech C-90 King Air, two Rockwell Aero Commanders,
a Rockwell Turbo Commander and two Bell 212 helicopters.
In the early 1990s, the OAO was designated the Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) and moved to MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida in January of 1993. AOC and its staff of approximately 95 employees operate, manage, and maintain NOAA's nine aircraft, including the agency's two Lockheed WP-3D Orion "hurricane hunters."
aircraft operate throughout the United States and
around the world. Over open ocean, mountains,
coastal wetlands and Arctic pack ice. NOAA's
mission is to describe and predict changes in the
Earth's environment and to conserve and manage wisely
the nation's coastal and marine resources.
The hard working and very specialized NOAA
aircraft directly support this mission by providing
scientists with unique platforms to precisely observe,
measure and chart the dynamics of our oceans and