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Delta Flight Weaves Through Irma for the Last Flight From San Juan

Sept. 06, 2017
3 min read
Delta Flight Weaves Through Irma for the Last Flight From San Juan
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Delta just pulled off a gutsy move. With Category 5 Hurricane Irma barreling down on Puerto Rico, airlines have been wary of sending flights into San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). Some flights even got as close as circling the airport before deciding to bail, i.e. divert:

Image by FlightRadar24.

Only Delta flight #431 from New York's JFK, a Boeing 737-900ER, continued unfazed toward San Juan.

With the outer bands of Irma starting to lash the airport, Delta flight #431 touched down at SJU just after noon local time, and just 40 minutes later, it took off as Delta flight #302 to return to JFK:

The flight had to turn sharply after takeoff and weave through gaps in Hurricane Irma's bands to escape unharmed.

While SJU airport isn't yet closed as of publishing, no other commercial flights are inbound. There are plenty of last-minute flights still scrambling to and from the Dominican Republic, but none are currently flirting with the massive storm like Delta did.

Image from FlightRadar24 captured at 2:11pm Eastern.

So, it seems that both Delta's inbound and outbound flights will go into the records as the last in and out of SJU before Hurricane Irma hits. And, second place wasn't even close. The second-to-last arrival and departure was a JetBlue flight from and back to Newark (EWR) nearly 2.5 hours prior:

SJU arrivals and departure board before Irma

The 737-900ER that made the flights bore the registration N840DN, a 2015 build delivered new to Delta. According to a Delta spokesperson, the inbound flight carried just 30 passengers — but the outbound was packed solid, likely with people fleeing Puerto Rico. Two pilots and four flight attendants worked both flights.

"Flight 431 from New York-JFK arrived at 12:01 p.m. to nine miles of visibility and light rain. Winds were around 24 knots with gusts up to 31 knots," Delta said in a statement posted on its site. Those numbers are "all well below operating limits for the 737-900ER to safely operate," the airline said.

Bravo to the Delta pilots, flight attendants, ground crew, gate agents, dispatchers, meteorologists and all of the air traffic controllers along the way for pulling off this incredible feat.

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This post has been updated to include a statement from Delta Airlines.