New Commander to Direct NOAA’s Aircraft Operations

July 14, 2009

WP-3D Orion “hurricane hunter” aircraft and Gulfstream-IV hurricane surveillance jet.

WP-3D Orion “hurricane hunter” aircraft and Gulfstream-IV hurricane surveillance jet.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA Corps Capt. William B. Kearse assumed command of the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Tampa, Fla. The center, located on MacDill Air Force Base, is home to most of NOAA’s 14 research aircraft, including the NOAA WP-3D Orion “hurricane hunter” aircraft and Gulfstream-IV hurricane surveillance jet.

Kearse relieves Capt. Brian K. Taggart, who has served as the center’s commanding officer since July 2007. The July 13 change-of-command ceremony was presided over by Rear Adm. Philip M. Kenul, director of NOAA’s Marine and Aviation Operations Centers.

“NOAA is committed to providing the highest level of science and service to the nation,” said Kenul. “Like his predecessors, Captain Kearse is a proven leader and manager who is dedicated to the success of every mission NOAA flies on behalf of the American people.”

A commissioned officer in the NOAA Corps since 1986 and licensed pilot, Kearse has served on a variety of NOAA aircraft and vessels. He served for 14 years as an aircraft and mission commander and is former chief of the NOAA Aircraft Operation Center’s photo survey branch. He has also managed the NOAA National Geodetic Survey’s aeronautical survey program.

In 2001, Kearse flew NOAA’s Citation jet during a series of photo and laser mapping overflights of the World Trade Center site following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Kearse holds a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a bachelor’s degree in geology from the College of Charleston. He has received numerous awards during his career, including a Department of Commerce Gold Medal, NOAA Administrator’s Award and NOAA Corps Commendation medal.

The NOAA fleet of aircraft and vessels is operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes civilians and officers of the NOAA Corps. The NOAA Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services. Its commissioned officers have degrees in engineering, science or mathematics and provide NOAA with an important blend of technical, operational and leadership skills at sea, in the air and in program offices throughout the nation.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the oceans to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.