Miss Piggy and Kermit

Piggy and Kermit
The NOAA P-3s, Miss Piggy and Kermit

The Lockheed WP-3D Orion (P-3) is a highly instrumented aircraft made to sustain large amounts of damage and fly through adverse conditions. The Aircraft Operations Center has two P-3’s. The primary goal of the P-3 during hurricane season is to penetrate into the eye while dropping dropwindsondes in order to get data to Hurricane Research Division. An average hurricane reconnaissance mission lasts about 9-10 hours.

Since the P-3’s are equipped to take atmospheric measurements they participate in a number of projects, from hurricane reconnaissance to ocean wind experiments and bow echo research, the P-3 is made to do just about any kind of weather research all over the world.

A few past projects that the P-3 participated in are explained below:
- BAMEX: Bow Echo and Mesoscale Convective Vortices Experiment in 2003. BAMEX, which was conducted in the Midwest, was dedicated to bow echo evolution experimentation.

- SALLJEX: South American Low-Level Jet Experiment in late 2002 through 2003. SALLJEX was conducted over northern Argentina and western Paraguay. The primary goal was to improve short and long term forecasting.

- WSR: Winter Storm Reconnaissance Program in 2008. The P-3 took over for the GIV in 2008 during the annual NCEP winter storm missions.

- Ocean Winds: The P-3’s work with NESDIS to verify their satellites accuracy.

-TEXAQS: Texas Air Quality Study in 2006.

P3 Diagram

Type Engines:

4 Allison T56-14 Turbo Prop Engines
Each rated at 4600 Shaft Horse Power (SHP)


2 Pilots, Flight Engineer, Navigator, 1 Flight Director (flight meteorologist), 1 ASPEN Director (flight meteorologist), 2 or 3 Engineering/Electronic specialists, Radio/Avionics specialist, and a up to 12 Scientist or Media personnel.

Max. Takeoff Weight:

135,000 lbs.



Rate of Climb:

Up to 3000 FPM depending on aircraft gross weight and density altitude

Operational Airspeeds:

170 - 250 KIAS


4 Generators (3 are engine driven, 1 Auxiliary Power Unit)
each generator yields 120 volt, 3 phase, 400HZ power 90 KVA max power

Max. Gross Weight:

135,000 lbs max takeoff weight
114,000 lbs max landing (103,880 is normal)

Empty Weight:

Approximately 73,000 lbs depending on scientific gear installed

Maximum zero Fuel weight:

Approximately 77,000 lbs.

Useful Load:

Approximately 62,000 lbs

Fuel Load:

58,000 lbs.

Type Fuel:

JP4, JP5, JP8, JET A, JET A-1, JET B

Standard Fuel Burn:

4500 - 6000 lbs/hr depending on altitude and airspeed

Maximum Range and Duration:


Dimensions (external):

Wingspan = 99 ' 8"
Length = 116' 10"
Height to top of fin = 34' 3"
Top of fin to lower skin = 24' 4"

Additional Standard Equipment (Cockpit):

Skywatch Collision Avoidance System (TCAS)
Altitude Alert System

Skywatch Collision Avoidance System (TCAS):

An airborne traffic advisory system that assists the flight crew in visual acquisition of aircraft that may pose a collision threat.

Altitude Alert System:

System that provides flight crew with visual and audio warnings about a variety of flight conditions regarding the altitude of the aircraft.


Rockwell Collins C-band nose radar
Lower fuselage C-band research radar – 360 deg. horizontal fan beam

Cloud Physics:

PMS 2-dimensional and 1-dimensional precipitation and cloud particle probes
PMS Forward and Axially scattering particle probes
Aerosol sampling system


Sea surface temperature radiometer
CO2 air temperature radiometer
Eppley solar and terrestrial pyranometer and pyrgeometer radiometers


GPS dropwindsonde atmospheric profiling system
Airborne Expendable Bathythermographs (AXBT’s)


C-band and Ku-band scatterometers
Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer
Radome Flow Angle Sensors
External Wing Store Station Mounts
Dual Inertial and GPS Navigation Systems

Piggy Kermit

Nose art from the WP-3Ds, N43RF and N42RF

© The Jim Henson Company