Delta flight races Hurricane Irma to Puerto Rico and back -- and wins

Delta Air Lines prides itself on its completion factor, but a Wednesday flight literally dodged a hurricane.

Flight 431 pushed away from the gate New York’s JFK airport at 8:12 a.m. in a race to San Juan ahead of Hurricane Irma, according to FlightAware.com, the online tracking service.

The Boeing 737-900ER was headed toward a Category 5 storm has 185 mph winds – the second-strongest ever recorded – as it crawled across the Caribbean toward Florida. But the plane taxied for 27 minutes before taking off at 8:39 a.m., according to FlightAware.

The three-hour and 49-minute flight become more thrilling than a movie on the seat-back screen, as aviation fans -- such as Jason Rabinowitz (@AirlineFlyer) -- monitored the flight’s progress through online tracking services. 

As the pilots aimed for the island, the red-yellow-and-green mess of Irma sprawled in front of the plane on weather radar. Delta’s proprietary flight weather viewer app, which pilots use to help predict turbulence, was another tool that helped make the final San Juan flights as smooth as possible, Thomas said.

The timing proved auspicious. The flight landed at 12:01 p.m.  in light rain with nine miles of visibility, with wind gusts to 31 knots, which is well within operating limits for the aircraft to fly safely, according to Michael Thomas, a Delta spokesman.

“Our meteorology team is the best in the business,” said Erik Snell, Delta's vice president for operations and customer center. “They took a hard look at the weather data and the track of the storm and worked with the flight crew and dispatcher to agree it was safe to operate the flight. And our flight and ground crews were incredible in their effort to turn the aircraft quickly and safely so the flight could depart well before the hurricane threat.”

Landing was only half the challenge. After a speedy, 40-minute turn, return flight 302 pushed away from the gate 24 minutes early in San Juan, on its way back to JFK, according to FlightAware.

The plane with 173 customers arrived back at JFK early, in time for dinner at 4:22 p.m. Just another day at the office.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment