Nearly 200 passengers — including flight crew — found themselves (literally) in the middle of category 5 Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.
Delta Flight 302 was the last commercial airplane to fly out of Puerto Rico’s San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport on Wednesday afternoon before the airport shut down amid 185 mile-per-hour winds. The airplane’s pilot flew between the outer band of Irma and the core of the hurricane to safely arrive at New York’s JFK International Airport — all under three and half hours.
Thousands of Twitter users followed along in real time thanks to Jason Rabinowitz, a self-proclaimed aviation fan who tweeted DL302’s trajectory and shared remarkable photos of the flight taking on Irma’s dangerous winds.
While it looked terrifying, Delta maintains their pilots had everything under control.
“Our meteorology team is the best in the business,” Erik Snell, vice president for Delta operations and customer center, told the Washington Post. DL302 departed San Juan with 173 passengers on board, according to Delta.
“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,” Snell said. “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.”
Hurricane Irma rampaged across the Atlantic Ocean and slammed directly into the tiny island of Barbuda, destroying 90 percent of its built structures and killing at least one person. At least six people have died in the French part of St. Martin, according to The Guardian, which also reported that 965,000 people in Puerto Rico, are without power and at least 50,000 people are without water.
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