The plane that raced a hurricane

If you think a category 5 hurricane was going to keep Delta Airlines Flight 431 from delivering its passengers to Puerto Rico, think again. It raced the storm and won.

Delta flight 431 left New York’s JFK airport at 8.12am. It raced the category 5 storm, flying straight towards it, before reaching San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 12.01pm, when Hurricane Irma was just off the coast.

Aviation reporter Jason Rabinowitz tracked and tweeted the whole flight.

“You really want to fly into SJU during a category 5 hurricane, DL431? Everyone else has turned around,” he tweeted.

“DL431 is going for it,” he tweeted when he realised it was pressing ahead.

“Where others have turned back, Delta DL431 presses on,” tweeted flight tracking service Flightradar24.

After landing at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Puerto Rico, its ground crew had the plane turned around and ready for take-off within 40 minutes.

The plane, now DL302, departed Puerto Rico at 12.43pm, with 173 passengers on board. It flew on the outskirts of the eye, just inside the outer arm (see image) before cutting across the tip of the arm and heading towards New York.

delta airlines take off in hurricane

What may have been a risky move, Delta declared that it was in full control, saying wind speeds were well below operating limits.

“Our meteorology team is the best in the business,” said Erik Snell, Vice President for Delta operations and customer centre.

“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.”

Would you have a difficult time trusting an airline that was prepared to fly into this storm?

Related articles:
The best seat for nervous flyers
How safe is your plane?
Turbulence is only going to get worse