The Pilot Who Flew Into A Hurricane On A Dare and Changed History

The dare altered hurricane tracking forever

Grant Piper
4 min readJun 8


AT-6 planes (Public domain)

Colonel Joseph B. Duckworth has a special place in US military history. Duckworth was a pioneer in instrument flying, which is the art of flying by using gauges and dials rather than by eyesight and visual cues. Instrument flying takes a lot of faith and a lot of brainpower, but it can be the difference between life and death while in the skies. A pilot adept at instrument flying can soar through low cloud cover and land at a field with no visual confirmation until they are nearly on the ground.

During World War II, instrument flying was critical for the later success of Allied air forces as planes had to fly high enough to avoid German flak over Europe and had to fly through gnarly weather conditions in the Pacific. Colonel Joe Duckworth literally wrote the book on instrument flying, and he put his skills to the ultimate test during a dare on July 27th, 1943.

Because if you want to fly into the eye of a hurricane, you are going to have to rely heavily on your instruments.

The Legend

Duckworth left active combat roles after flying thousands of hours of training and missions. He was redeployed stateside where he traveled between major training fields and taught new pilots his method of instrument flying. During one such stop in Bryan, Texas, a city 100 miles northwest of Houston, Colonel Duckworth entertained a dare.

The exact details of the dare are unknown but the legend says that a fellow airman dared Duckworth to fly his plane into a nearby hurricane.

The hurricane in question is known as the Surprise Hurricane of 1943. The hurricane popped up seemingly out of nowhere. Modern reexamination of the storm says that it likely developed out of an area of low pressure that was sitting over the northern Gulf of Mexico before intensifying into a hurricane and surprising the residents of eastern Texas.

When the hurricane struck land it was a Category 2 storm.

As news reports filtered into the military bases about the approaching storm, Duckworth took the dare. He agreed to fly his plane into the heart of the Suprise Hurricane. The pilots…



Grant Piper

Thought provoking articles, when time and payouts permit it.