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Remembering NOAA hurricane hunter James ‘Doc’ McFaddenRemembering NOAA hurricane hunter James ‘Doc’ McFadden

James “Doc” McFadden, chief of programs for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s aircraft operations center, died September 28 at age 86.

James 'Doc' McFadden, chief of programs for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's aircraft operations center, died September 28 at age 86. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

In an online tribute, colleagues lauded the research scientist who earned a doctorate in meteorology as “a dedicated public servant who, over the course of his 57 year career, has immeasurably influenced the evolution of airborne data collection at NOAA.”

McFadden was responsible for coordinating all research projects on NOAA’s aircraft, including the agency’s Gulfstream IV–SP and two Lockheed WP–3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft, which are based at Lakeland Linder International Airport in Florida near the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo campus.

McFadden flew through more than 50 hurricanes and passed through the eyes of storms 590 times.

He “played a key role in coordinating thousands of projects on more than two dozen aircraft of various types, makes, and models, including helicopters, seaplanes, fixed-wing light aircraft, heavy multi-engine propeller aircraft, and high-altitude jets,” the tribute noted.

McFadden became active in hurricane research in 1965 and performed his first hurricane eye penetration into Category 3 Hurricane Inez off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on October 6, 1966, Yale Climate Connections wrote in an online obituary. “His active career spanned 52 years, 352 days,” earning McFadden a Guinness World Records spot for “longest career as a Hurricane Hunter,” the climate group noted. His final storm flight was into Tropical Storm Jerry, northeast of the Leeward Islands, on September 22, 2019.

McFadden was remembered by meteorological research colleagues as a champion of hurricane awareness, education, and outreach.

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-winning AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft and photography.
Topics: People, Aviation Industry, Weather

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