Passenger jet races against Hurricane Irma. Guess who won
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Passenger jet races against Hurricane Irma. Guess who won

As Hurricane Irma bore down on the southern United States on Wednesday, airlines adjusted flight schedules and made cancellations. A Delta Airlines flight raced against time and the hurricane amid the storm.

world Updated: Sep 07, 2017 12:21 IST
Nisheeth Upadhyay
Nisheeth Upadhyay
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Irma,Hurricane Irma,Hurricane
A Delta Airlines attempted to fly from New York to San Juan on Wednesday before Hurricane Irma blacked out the area; and it succeeded.(Twitter/FlightRadar24)

It was a big challenge from the get-go -- racing against a powerful hurricane.

But one US commercial jet took on the challenge and emerged a winner. A Delta Airlines flight carrying 173 people on board took off from New York on Wednesday, flew toward Hurricane Irma, landed in Puerto Rico’s San Juan and returned, just before the airport was shut down ahead of the Category 5 storm.

Category 5 is the highest United States classification for hurricanes, described it as a “potentially catastrophic” storm.

Experts praised the airline’s forecasters, dispatchers and flight and ground crews for the successful flight after it returned from San Juan.

Jason Rabinowitz, who describes himself as an aviation geek and has more than 30,000 followers on Twitter, live-tweeted the Delta jet’s flight status. In a blog post titled ‘Delta Goes Big, Then Goes Home, flight-tracking service FlightRadar24 said: “As Hurricane Irma bore down San Juan, Puerto Rico, Delta sent one last flight to help evacuate a few hundred people from San Juan just before the airport closed.”

“Other airlines also launched flights on Wednesday morning, but those either arrived in San Juan as the winds were too strong to land or turned back before reaching Puerto Rico... As DL302 departed, it followed the gap between Irma’s outer band and the core of the storm, allowing the aircraft to navigate in relatively calm air,” it said.

Several airlines have adjusted flight schedules and made cancellations ahead of the storm’s arrival in the US. The hurricane is expected to make landfall in Florida by the weekend. The hurricane affected most of Puerto Rico, and it headed toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Thursday.

The Delta flight data showed Flight 431 landed at 11.58 local time and was back on its way to New York as Delta 302 less than an hour later.

The flight came after a US government agency video of a plane flying through Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane recorded, surfaced on social media.

The video, posted by US’ scientific agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Hunters, showed a Lockheed WP-3D Orion aircraft passing through the eye of the hurricane.

First Published: Sep 07, 2017 12:21 IST