U.S. Coast Guard flyovers help officials monitor, study Mauna Loa eruption

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Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 4:59 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2022 at 7:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point has been assisting the U.S. Geological Survey with flyovers of Mauna Loa since the eruption began.

HNN had the exclusive opportunity to join a night surveillance flight with Rear Adm. Michael Day, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Fourteenth District, USGS scientists and Hawai’i county officials for a bird’s eye view of the active fissure and lava flow.

The group boarded a C-130 J model Hercules aircraft and headed for Hilo.

The crew gave us a tour of the cockpit and Adm. Day explained how life-saving supplies are dropped from the back ramp onto the ocean during search and rescue missions.

“We’re happy to share with people in Hawaii and bettering the response,” Admiral Day said.

A quick stop in Hilo to pick up about 20 passengers from various agencies, including county transportation, board of water supply and public works.

Then off to Mauna Loa to circle the active fissure and lava field.

The plane is equipped with high tech infrared optical cameras and night vision capabilities — tools for collecting images and data on the vent and lava including compass readings, direction, height, temperature, and other measurements.

We spoke to a USGS scientist who told us seeing the eruption at night from the sky gives them a better understanding of its size and scope.

The contrast of the red lava against the dark slope also shows where lava is pooling in relation to the highway and where the flow may have stalled.

Observers on the flyover noted the lava flow was no longer headed toward the highway as it did before. Something officials hope will stay that way.

“We’re helping the scientists get close up of the eruption. So you can see and monitor just how the lava is flowing today,” said Admiral Day, who says eruption flyovers are among the many missions the Coast Guard get called on to help.

And now he’s making his own call for recruits.

“So many people are from Hawaii and serve here,” Adm. Day said. “Hiring people for part-time or full-time, if they want to join the Coast Guard and be part of the action, part of the team,” Admiral Day said.

A team working to keep Hawaii safe.

For more information, visit www.gocoastguard.com or the Sand Island base.