A crew is made up of a minimum of five members consisting of a pilot, copilot, navigator, aerial reconnaissance weather officer, and loadmaster who is also the dropsonde operator.
While the pilots handle the controls, there is a third person positioned behind them, known as the navigator or ‘nav’ for short.
Navigators are responsible for preparing flight plans, which include routes, headings, checkpoints, and times. During flight, they operate from their station using equipment such as GPS, radio, radar, and communication systems that assist in guiding the aircraft through weather.
Maj. Mark Withee, 53rd WRS navigator said “As a nav, we have to be the middle man between the weather officer and pilots, and we have to be able to compromise on a route to get to an area of interest, which is crucial in a storm”.
Withee explained that while weather officers are gathering weather data and are requesting flyover of an area of interest, it may not be safe for the aircraft to take a direct route. Thus, the navigator plots the safest course to accomplish the request and accomplish their mission.
References: Paraphrased from “Hurricane Hunters: navigators guide through storms”