A Delta Airlines flight heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 6, flew through Hurricane Irma and back to New York unscathed and ahead of schedule.
The pilot and crew flew one last flight for the day amid many cancellations. The pilot skirted the outer bands of the hurricane and made it to San Juan seven minutes ahead of schedule despite leaving New York seven minutes late, the Daily Mail reported.
Puerto Rico indeed laid the the path of the storm, but not enough to deter the daring Delta flight team. Aviation blogger Jason Rabinowitz monitored the flight’s progress and posted updates via his Twitter account.
A Delta news release mentioned the flight, crediting the meteorology team with the success:
“Armed with the latest forecast from the airline’s meteorology team, Delta operated its last scheduled flight to and from San Juan on Wednesday ahead of the storm. Flight 431 from New York-JFK arrived at 12:01 p.m. to nine miles of visibility and light rain.”
Flightradar24, a website that keeps track of live flight traffic and the one Rabinowitz monitored, showed how the plane had to intricately weave through the hurricane’s reaches and fly into places with gentler winds while sandwiched between rougher regions.
The crew deboarded and reboarded the plane with relative ease once they landed. Then they headed back to New York. The plane was ready to head back in just 51 minutes. Delta moved the departure time up by 25 minutes. The plane then landed back in New York over 30 minutes early.
With 173 passengers on board and a vicious storm hovering nearby that was breaking records for its sustained wind speed levels, Delta basically trusted its meteorologist and treated the situation like a normal day.
“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,” read the Delta press release.
The pilot and crew handled the hurricane conditions extremely smoothly, and were almost unaffected by what is devastating islands in the Caribbean. Ninety percent of Barbuda and 95 percent of St. Martin met destruction in the storm. Nine people across three affected islands were killed. Electricity was knocked out across Puerto Rico, CNN reported. Much of the destruction owes to the 180 mph winds.
Two other flights headed to Puerto Rico at the same time were diverted before reaching the island.