100 hours a week and loving it!
During the flights, if my own mission is being done, I sit in the cockpit and direct all the science going on on the airplane. I make sure that the sondes are dropped at the right time, make any changes that need to be made in the plans during the flight, and record all the information on what we did for future reference when we actually can look at the data. I communicate with the pilots and the other scientists with radio headsets, since during much of the mission, we are in our seats strapped in. If it's not my mission we are flying, I am usually a dropsonde scientist. When we drop the sondes, they radio back information every half second to computers on the plane. The dropsonde scientists makes sure that these data are correct before sending them off the plane to get into the computer models. I sit in front of the computer terminal the entire flight. We sometimes drop as many as forty sondes each mission, so the dropsonde scientist job can be a very busy one.
At the end of each mission, we gather all the data from the computers on the plane and write them to tapes to examine later during our research. We usually land around 10:30 to 11:30 pm, sometimes try to eat dinner and get some sleep to start the whole process again at 7:30 the next morning. This process can sometimes repeat itself for as long as a week.
We fly out of different places around the Atlantic. In the last few years, we have been based in Barbados, the Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Miami, Tampa, Savannah, Charleston, Washington, Providence, and Biloxi. Sometimes, we don't know where we are going to land until we are half-way through each mission, so we have to pack our bags to be away from home for quite awhile. And, since we live in Miami, we have to make sure that our own homes and family are protected if a hurricane threatens there.
Last year, when Hurricane Floyd threatened, I got home from a mission late at night, and had to start putting shutters up on the house. I went into work early the next morning to draw the flight tracks for the next day, and then returned home to finish the shutters and wait out the hurricane inside. The next day, I was back at work drawing flight tracks, and did not have a chance to take all the shutters off the house for a few weeks.
This may all sound busy, and it is. Sometimes, I don't get a day off for a few weeks, and work more than 100 hours each week. But the job can get so exciting that we just work on adrenalin and do not worry so much about resting until the hurricane is over. And, when you enjoy the job as much as I do, it is a privilege much more than a chore to do what I do.
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