Hurricane Irma couldn’t keep one daring Delta pilot and crew from making a last run to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday.

Delta Flight 431 was the final commercial flight in — and out — as storm watchers and aviation enthusiasts cheered them on across the internet.

The flight arrived in San Juan from New York’s JFK airport at 12:01 p.m. to nine miles of visibility and light rain, according to a Delta spokesperson. While winds blew at about 28 mph and gusted up to 36 mph, they were well within the safe operating limits of the Boeing 737-900ER plane, according to the airline.

But after making it safely to San Juan, the crew still had to “turn” the aircraft — get passengers off the plane, clean up, get a full flight of new passengers aboard and get back in the air as fast as possible — before the worst of Irma trapped them all.

They managed it in 40 minutes and got back in the air, redesignated as Flight 302, according to a Delta spokesperson, with 173 customers aboard.

“Our meteorology team is the best in the business,” Erik Snell, Delta’s vice president of operations and customer centers said via email. “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. 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.”

Gayle is the Heartland Editor at Rare. She grew up in the Midwest, graduated from Kent State University and caught a serious case of Potomac Fever that has kept her in D.C. for nearly 15 years. She has traveled the world covering military aviation with Defense News, defense and foreign ...Read more
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