Yet Another Time, Delta Braves a Hurricane (And Wins)
Stop me if you've heard this before, but Delta is flying into a hurricane. Seemingly emboldened after being the last to fly into San Juan (SJU) Category 5 Hurricane Irma, the Atlanta-based airline repeated the feat on Tuesday by flying into SJU hours later than any other airline ahead of Hurricane Maria's destruction of the airport.
Despite Hurricane Maria's forecast pass just north of Cibao International Airport (STI) in Santiago, Dominican Republic, Delta is continuing to operate in and out of the airport. Over the last 24 hours, Delta has been the only airline to fly into the airport and the only airline to depart since JetBlue's last two flights left Wednesday night ahead of the storm:
Unfazed by Hurricane Maria passing just north of its destination, Delta #452 took off from New York City's JFK airport shortly after 2pm Eastern time. Like its other flights into the single-runway Santiago airport, Delta used a Boeing 737-800. Today's aircraft would be registration N3750D, a 2001 build.
However, unlike Delta's other notable flights around hurricanes, this approach didn't go as smoothly. As the flight approached Santiago — with the center of Hurricane Maria less than 100 miles north-northwest of the airfield — the flight entered a holding pattern. Considering there aren't any other aircraft in the areas and there's an especially strong part of Hurricane Maria just north of the airport, we can probably chalk that up to the weather.
After circling four times, Delta 452 began final approach and stuck the landing on the first try on the 8,595-foot runway.
Delta flight #556 is scheduled to depart STI at 6:59pm. However, considering the slightly-delayed gate arrival at 6:25pm, it's likely that this departure will be delayed.
As of publishing, the aircraft is still on the ground in STI. We will update this post as the story develops.
Update 7:28pm: Delta flight #556 pushed back at 7:19pm, which is 20 minutes after the scheduled departure. This means that the Delta Boeing 737-800 spent 54 minutes at the gate.
Considering Delta's much faster turns in San Juan (SJU), we may be able to chalk up part of this delay to the current air traffic control delays at JFK — which are currently averaging 94 minutes.
Update 7:43pm: Delta flight #556 took off at 7:36pm and is currently following a narrow band of relatively-light precipitation on its way around the front end of Hurricane Maria and up the US coast:
Update 8:47pm: Delta flight #556 is in the clear. Just another day in the office for those Delta pilots. Well done by the entire Delta team and air traffic control to make this flight operate safely in and out of Santiago, Dominican Republic.