Delta pilots race Hurricane Irma to Puerto Rico –and win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Wednesday, one Delta plane took a flight path through the bands of Hurricane Irma no other commercial pilots would attempt .

The plane flew from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to the San Juan Airport in Puerto Rico just as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the island.

According to the Delta website, the Boeing 737-900ER aircraft, Flight 431, landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 12:01 p.m.

It stayed on the ground for 40 minutes, picking up 173 passengers.

The plane then took back off for New York City, under new flight number Delta 302, at12:41 p.m., safely flying away from the island in between bands of the storm 24 minutes ahead of schedule.

The flight crew that brought the plane safely into San Juan was relieved by a second crew that flew the plane back to New York. The original crew rode as passengers on the flight back to JFK.

A picture of the flight board in the airport showed every other departing and arriving flight to and from San Juan Airport canceled, except for the lone Delta flight.

(Photo: Submitted)

A self-described aviation geek, Jason Rabinowitz, was watching flight radars as the storm approached.  Rabinowitz, using the handle @AirlineFlyer, tweeted as he watched other flights approach Puerto Rico and then turn around mid-air because of the hurricane.

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

After the plane landed and took off 40 minutes later, Rabinowitz tweeted, “Now DL302 has to climb out of SJU, and they’re doing so between the outer band of #Irma and the core of the storm. Amazing stuff.”

Erik Snell, the Vice President of Delta Opearations, said their meteorology “is the best in the business.”

He continued, “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.”

In a statement, the airlines also said when the plane was approaching San Juan, “winds were around 24 knots with gusts up to 31 knots – all well below operating limits for the 737-900ER to safely operate.”