Delta Crew Braves Irma for Rescue Flight

As Hurricane Irma threatened to make landfall in Puerto Rico, most pilots were avoiding the area. Understandably so, perhaps.

One Delta Airlines plane, however, headed straight toward the storm. The pilot landed on the island as it was engulfed and got away again within an hour, taking more than 170 people out of the path of the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.

Despite the extreme weather closing in, the airline described conditions as “well below operating limits” for the aircraft when it arrived. Flight records examined by the Guardian show it arriving in San Juan on Puerto Rico’s north coast, and leaving again about 40 minutes later.

“Our meteorology team is the best in the business,” said Delta’s Erik Snell. “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.”

The flight was the last to leave the island, which has been battered by the category 5 hurricane. It had arrived to “nine miles of visibility and light rain. Winds were around 24 knots with gusts up to 31 knots,” Delta said.

The flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 shared a radar image (above) showing Flight 302 navigating a narrow path between Irma’s outer bands to escape the storm. The flight arrived safely at New York’s JFK airport. (Travel Weekly, The Guardian)

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