In 1976 and 1977, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration purchased two customized WP-3D (P-3) aircraft to conduct tropical cyclone (TC) research. During their first 30 years, the P-3s have proved to be invaluable research platforms, obtaining data at the micro- to synoptic scale, with missions conducted in 134 TCs in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans and near Australia. Analyses of the observations led to many new insights about TC structure, dynamics, thermodynamics, and environmental interactions. The real-time use of the information by the National Hurricane and Environmental Modeling Centers of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), as well as later research, has helped to increase the accuracy of wind, flood, and storm surge forecasts and severe weather warnings and has resulted in significant improvements to operational numerical model guidance for TC-track forecasts. In commemoration of the first 30 years of research with these aircraft, this manuscript presents a brief overview of the instrumentation aboard the aircraft and the major research findings during this period.

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NOAA/AOML/Hurricane Research Division, Miami, Florida

Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, University of Miami, Miami, Florida