By Alex Fitzpatrick
September 11, 2018

Depending on who you ask, so-called “Hurricane Hunters” are either some of the bravest or craziest aircrews around.

After all, in no other line of work do you purposefully fly directly into one of mother nature’s fiercest phenomena. But their work is more than mere aeronautical bravado — these Air Force Reserve and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) missions collect valuable data about hurricanes as they fly through them, helping meteorologists better predict each storm’s path and hopefully save lives in the process.

Still, don’t let the important work done by the Hurricane Hunters completely overshadow another fact of their missions: the images and video they record while piercing into these mighty storms can be very, very cool.

Take, for example, this time-lapse footage of Hurricane Florence recorded Monday by the NOAA’s Nick Underwood. It’s tough to see in this sped-up recording, but these missions can be incredibly turbulent — the Lockheed WP-3D Orion seen here is likely getting tossed around enough that anyone on board could be forgiven for losing their lunch. Until, of course, the aircraft finally pierces Hurricane Florence’s eyewall, entering the always-freakishly-calm center. But the smooth flying doesn’t last, because there’s only one way out, and you’ll want to buckle up.

Hurricane Florence is currently a Category 4 hurricane, and could strengthen further before it makes landfall, likely somewhere in the Carolinas, on Thursday night or early Friday. More than a million people are under evacuation orders ahead of what could be a catastrophically strong storm.

Write to Alex Fitzpatrick at alex.fitzpatrick@time.com.

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