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‘Hurricane Hunters’ Air Force unit investigating flight that landed at Martha’s Vineyard to pick up motorcycle

By Oren Liebermann and Barbara Starr, CNN

The “Hurricane Hunters” Air Force unit that flies specially equipped aircraft directly into severe weather has opened an investigation after one of its training flights landed at Martha’s Vineyard to pick up a motorcycle belonging to one of the crew members, according to a statement from the 403rd Wing.

The Lockheed WC-130J Hercules, a transport aircraft equipped with weather instrumentation, was flying an “off-station training mission” on Friday, March 25, when it made an “unplanned stop” at Martha’s Vineyard airport, Lt. Col. Marnee Losurdo said in a statement.

“The crew picked up a motorcycle that belonged to one of the crewmembers,” Losurdo said. “Leadership is aware of the incident, which is under investigation.”

Depending on the findings of the investigation, the crew could face some level of discipline, including the loss or suspension of flight status, because of the unplanned, unscheduled deviation from the training mission.

“Once the investigation is complete we will provide additional information,” Losurdo said.

It is not clear to which member the motorcycle belonged.

Flight tracking websites, including FlightAware and ADS-B Exchange, tracked the flight from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron as it took off just before 12:30 pm from Quonset State Airport, a joint civilian-military airport in Rhode Island, and landed at Martha’s Vineyard. It remained on the island for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, according to the flight tracking websites, before it took off again for Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod in Massachusetts, where it conducted nine practice approaches over the course of two hours before returning to Rhode Island.

The Martha’s Vineyard Times was the first to report about the flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment, directing CNN to the military for more information. CNN has also reached out to Martha’s Vineyard Airport for comment.

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, a part of the 403rd Wing based in Biloxi, Mississippi, describes itself as the only operational unit in the world flying weather reconnaissance missions on a regular basis.

The “Hurricane Hunters” fly around and through tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, central Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico for the National Hurricane Center in Florida. The unit also flies winter storm missions.

The unit flies WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft equipped with specialized weather instrumentation that gathers data about the surrounding conditions. According to the unit’s website, the aircraft carries a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight meteorologist and weather reconnaissance loadmaster.

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CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

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