So You Want to be a Dropsonde Operator...
This is another "one-of-a-kind" job, only available with the Hurricane Hunters. It's an exciting and rewarding career for an enlisted aviator with an interest in science.
What a Dropsonde Operator Does
The "Drop" actually has two jobs on the WC-130. First and foremost, he or she is a weather specialist, responsible for collecting weather information from a dropsonde, a special weather instrument which acts similar to a weather balloon (except ours falls). The Dropsonde Operator drops a sonde each time we go through the eye of the storm, plus in other areas of interesting weather.
The other job the Drop performs includes limited loadmaster duties (making sure
everything is loaded and tied down properly in the cargo compartment), as well as
scanning the exterior of the airplane during engine start, and monitoring the health
of the plane during the flight by inspecting the engines and other aircraft systems.
This is one of the two enlisted positions on our aircraft. You should have at least a high school diploma (or equivalent), and be no more than 34 years old by the time you join the Air Force Reserve, unless you already have military experience. We are primarily looking for folks with either military weather or military flying experience. You must also be in excellent health. See the step on flight physical.
Each of our candidates will go through the loadmaster schools at Little Rock, Arkansas, for three months.
Weather Observer School
Our preference for Dropsonde Operator candidates are folks who are already qualified military weather forecasters or observers. However, if you come to us from a military flying career field, we will send you through the weather apprentice courses at the Weather School at Keesler AFB, Mississippi (across the street from our building!). This is a challenging 4-month series of classes which will train you to observe, record and code the weather.
You will also go through the Physiological Training and Survival School courses
required of all Air Force aviators.
Initial Dropsonde Qualification
The bulk of your training will be done "in house", with Instructor Dropsonde Operators--after all, we're the only ones who do this job! You'll learn a tremendous amount about the WC-130, inside and out. You'll also learn how to operate the dropsonde equipment and review the weather data for accuracy. This training will take about a half year.
(This page was originally at http://www.hurricanehunters.com/jobdso.htm. This job no longer exists on the WC-130J models, replaced by computers and a standard loadmaster.)