The last flight out

If you want to get a sense of the kind of expertise behind the scenes at an airline, take a look at Delta Airlines, which today did what some other airlines didn’t want to do: fly into, then out of, San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is about to get hammered by Hurricane Irma.

Jason Rabinowitz, who writes at Airline Reporter, watched and tweeted today as Delta Flight 431, from New York, headed for the storm.

You can’t even think of doing that unless you have really good dispatchers and forecasters. Delta does, Rabinowitz noted, accurately predicting the conditions would be safe to land, if nothing slowed them down.

Ultimately, it’s the pilot’s call whether to attempt the landing. Other pilots didn’t. This one, obviously, was willing, and trusting of those backstopping the flight from some other location.

But still: it’s a hurricane.

It landed in some pretty colors, then bumped up the departure time by 25 minutes, and turning around in 52…

… and taking off in a narrow band of calmness, this time as Flight 302.

That was around 11 a.m., central time. By 3 p.m., the wind in San Juan had increased to 50 mph and the visibility dropped to a little over a mile.

And there wasn’t a plane anywhere near Puerto Rico.

(h/t: Chris Moseley)

[Update]- Chaska couple escapes San Juan on plane that flew into hurricane (Star Tribune)

  • Gary F

    And if they didn’t make it out alive? Which parties get sued? Who still has their job?

    Precision. Just look at that open spot to the left that they made it through.

    I’d be too busy praying and finding the barf bag to start complaining that I didn’t get the whole can of Diet Coke.

    • Keep in mind planes aren’t as big scale-wise as the icon of FlightRadar24

      • jon

        The still images obviously don’t show it, but I’d presume that the plane is also moving significantly faster than the storm as well.
        (And after take off potentially above it?)

        • Paul

          That and they climb like no ones business, especially lightly loaded. The tallest of Irma was reported 50,000MSL south of the eye.

  • Veronica

    Do we know why they did this? To help people evacuate?

    • It’s a regular flight, but , yeah, I assume to accommodate the people who got a ticket to get out. I’m wondering how many people were on the flight in?

      • Kassie

        After Hurricane Mitch took a toll on Nicaragua, I took a flight out of there. It was the emptiest plane I’ve ever been on. Each passenger got a full row, six seats. It was during that weird time where everyone who could get out already did and most people helping were still going there, not yet home. Flights in were packed with aid workers, so they didn’t cancel the flight for the few of us trying to get out. I was thankful for the extra space having just gotten out of the hospital due to getting sick from contaminated drinking water.

  • MikeB

    If the pilot’s willing I’d get on board rather than staying on the ground in a hurricane. But during that taxiing and takeoff I would be using that time to think of the Big Things in my life, just in case.

  • I play hockey with some controllers at ZMA (Miami Center). Some of the finest controllers I know.

    /I’m getting FB updates as to the state of the center, too. they are basically all evacuating.