Hurricanes are pretty bad news for air travel. There’s not much that can be done when a storm blows in other than hunker down and wait it out. Anyone who has to get home when a storm is on the horizon has to act quick if they don’t want to be stuck in a strange city for an unknown period of time. Because of that, the last few flights before an airport is shut down are especially hectic, and no one knows that better than an experienced pilot.
Pilots get a lot of grief for flights gone wrong, even though much of it is out of their control and up to the elements. Any experienced flight crew understands that they walk a fine line of carrying out their objective of an on time arrival and keeping their passengers safe. Delta airlines seems to take both of those things very seriously, considering what they did right in the middle of Hurricane Irma.
With what were no doubt some pretty nervous passengers, looking to get home to friends and family, one Delta pilot took a strange path right into Hurricane Irma in order to land in Puerto Rico. What he and the crew did after that might be just as impressive because they de-boarded and re-bordered the plan and were wheels up in just 51 minutes.
Via Daily Mail:
“A daring Delta Airlines pilot dodged Hurricane Irma to land in Puerto Rico – before dropping off all the passengers and heading back to JFK in just 51 minutes.
Hundreds of flights were canceled [sic] due to the storm, but the crew for Delta flight 431 decided they were up for the challenge.
The plane, in order to get in one last flight to and from the island before the storm hit, flew directly from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then quickly turned around and came back.
Both flights were able to land in their respective destinations before schedule.”
Delta had a scheduled flight from New York to San Juan, which was scheduled to leave at 8.05am.
The flight ended up leaving just a few minutes after when it was meant to, and remarkable landed seven minutes earlier than scheduled.
Jason Rabinowitz monitored the flight on Flightradar24 and tweeted updates about the entire journey.
Photos show the tricky path that the plane had to take to avoid the worst bits of turbulence.
In the flight path it’s clear that the pilots made a point to weave in between the outer bands of the storm to get to and from San Juan.
Though flight deplaning is a largely long and frustrating process, Delta said that in this case it was a walk in the park.
The crew on this plane was able to get all passengers to the gate, deplaned, boarded for a return flight, and then off the ground in just 51 minutes.
As Rabinowitz pointed out, it was most likely a quick turnaround once it was down on the ground so that the crew could get out of the way of the storm as quickly as possible.
The flight, Delta 303, was the last one out of the San Juan Airport on Wednesday. It landed in New York at 4.22pm, more than 30 minutes early.
People watching Rabinowitz’s live-updates shared their nerves for the two flights, and then their relief and how impressed they were with the pilot and crew when both landed.
One twitter user jokingly tweeted a photo of Jon Stewart anxiously eating popcorn to describe how watching the play-by-play about the flights made him feel. Another man, Tom Gutting wrote: ‘This is seriously one of the most tense, dramatic things I’ve seen on Twitter. Thanks for documenting. Unreal.’
The storm, which has been dubbed one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a decade, has ripped through much of the Caribbean on Wednesday.
It is currently a category five hurricane and is not expected to slow down for multiple days. Experts believe it will hit the mainland United States before the weekend.
So far Hurricane Irma has had winds that reach up to 185 miles per hour, and has caused serious chaos, wreckage and flooding from Barbuda to Puerto Rico.
More than 90 percent of Barbuda has been destroyed, and 95 percent of St Martin has been destroyed. At least four people have died so far.
And because of the intensity of the storm, the Delta pilot’s ability to navigate in the storm and get to and from Puerto Rico safely is particularly shocking.
Patrick Smith, a pilot who runs a blog about planes told the Huffington Post that there isn’t much that is subjective regarding winds on the ground and the ability of a flight to land.
‘There are maximum tailwind and crosswind limits that have to be observed,’ he explained.
‘Above and beyond any hard-and-fast limits, you’ve got powerful gusts, severe turbulence, extreme precipitation or other clearly unstable conditions, no airline is going to sanction flight in those conditions.’
However, a Delta news release assured people that the weather conditions in San Juan were safe enough for the flights.
The release said the flight faced ‘nine miles of visibility and light rain,’ and that ll rain was ‘well below operating limits’ for the type of plane that was being flown.”
[H/T: Daily Mail]