A Delta jet managed to dodge the eye of Hurricane Irma as it made a quick to-and-from flight between New York JFK and Luis Muñoz Marín in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The original flight (Flight 431) that was leaving New York managed to outlast three other planes, with two from Jet Blue and one from American Airlines turning around to find safer destinations to land in, as the hurricane proved to be creating difficult flight conditions.
The flight’s path was followed and live-tweeted by aviation journalist Jason Rabinowitz, who amassed great interest in the flight’s journey as he shared images of flight maps displaying the plane’s path that was located between the outer band of Irma and the core of the storm. With such a narrow path to follow, many expressed awe at the control that the flight crew possessed while navigating their way through the storm.
After landing in San Juan, the plane had a quick turnaround, as all of the staff involved made sure to load and unload passengers as quickly as possible, while the ground staff refuelled the jet, meaning that when Flight 302 began its journey to New York, it had only been grounded for 40 minutes, after an incredibly short taxi time. With the impending hurricane threat, this quick turnaround with the ground team was the most dangerous part of the whole operation, as the team had to ensure that nothing went wrong while they rushed through their procedures – which only highlights their professionalism as they worked against the elements to ensure the flight took off safely.
The flight team worked closely with the meteorology team to ensure that they could create the safest flight plan, even using their weather-tracking technology through the flight to avoid any heavy pockets of wind and rain. As the flight was the last to land and take off from San Juan before they stopped operations, it was an important way of travel for many who were looking to escape the effects of the hurricane and was therefore treated as incredibly important throughout all of the procedures. As well as creating a way out of the country for many who would be otherwise stuck, the damage that could be caused if the plane had stayed after landing in San Juan could have been devastating to the aircraft itself, and any other craft that were nearby. This means that the safest option for anyone nearby as well as for Delta in ensuring the plane wasn’t damaged was for the flight to make its return journey to New York.
After takeoff, the flight team described the protocol for flying through the hurricane as the same as that for flying through thunderstorms, meaning that not only was the practice particularly ordinary for the staff who would have flown in similar conditions before, but the flight would have only really been bumpy for about 15 minutes, including some darkness and rain pour, and then it would have continued on as usual.
The 737-900 cleared the storm and landed back at JFK airport at 4:33pm, which was 39 minutes ahead of schedule, and showed the precision and expertise that the flight crew displayed while involving themselves in this flight. The vice president for Delta operations and customer centre said that the airline’s meteorology team was the best in the business and that they played a huge role in the success of the flight, which saw 173 passengers, as well as the crew, delivered safely away from Irma’s reach.