OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO — The mission, to fly a C-130 aircraft 150 miles west over the Gulf of Mexico, and hope you do not see anything beside clean waters.
A United States Coast Guard C-130 from Air Station Clearwater took off Tuesday morning with a payload of scientists and observers for a six-hour flight over the Gulf of Mexico. The flight took the team 150 miles due west from Clearwater out over the Gulf of Mexico, north to Taylor County, then south 60 miles off the Florida coast,
James Jeansonne, emergency response division scientific support coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, peered for hours from the C-130’s observation window, looking across the calm blue-green waters for any signs of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill glistening on the surface.
“The water looks good and clean, no signs of oil,” he said.
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Jeansonne pointed out various school of fish that were feeding on the surface, “a good sign of health,” Jeansonne said.
Also aboard observing was Paul Siddall with the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
“Counties along the Florida Gulf coast are nervous, and I wanted see for myself what is going on,” Siddal said.
Siddall said he would report back to the county leaders that no traces of oil were found.
Good news so far.
Beside looking for signs of oil, the flight over the Gulf served as an opportunity for Jerry Kawamura with L-3 Communications to test a prototype of a real-time data link system.
The prototype was put on the C-130 for testing for possible use in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Real-time data gathered through the flight were sent to USCG and NOAA operators on the ground all across the country, The information will assist the Coast Guard and NOAA in providing real-time data overlays on satellite images.