WP-3D Platform Info

NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center at MacDill AFB, FL maintains and operates NOAA's aircraft assets. Among them are two Lockheed WP-3D Orion, four engine turbo-prop aircraft, which are mainly used for severe storms and other weather related research. Starting in 1994, these aircraft have been temporarily converted into highly sophisticated airborne air chemistry and aerosol research platforms.

Specifications and Operational Parameters

ParameterSpecificationNOAA WP-3D Lockheed Orion Aircraft
Length116' 10"
Span99' 8"
Fuselage Diameter11' 3"
Ceiling25,000 ft
Research Speed200 knts IAS
Range1600+ nm
Fuel Burn4500 - 6000 lbs / hr
Fuel Load58,000 lbs (48,000 lbs usable; 10,000 lbs reserve)
Max Science Payload~ 5000 lbs inside fuselage; plus additional instruments in external wing stores

western US fire map

Fire location and intensity shown across the western U.S. during the peak of an average season (August 2013). The green circle indicates historical fire locations reachable with the NOAA WP-3D research aircraft in a single flight.

Operational range is an estimate and actual range is determined by how much fuel can be loaded within the maximum aircraft gross weight limit of 135,000 lbs. We anticipate the aircraft to be 'max zero fuel weight' limited, i.e., with the fuselage loaded to capacity and additional instrumentation operated in external stores (pods) under the wings.

The WP-3D aircraft are operated by an AOC crew of seven (aircraft commander, pilot, flight engineer, navigator, flight director/meteorologist, and two technicians) and can carry in addition several science personnel. The planned payload relies on the full space and payload weight capacity available.