Hurricane Irma: Delta flight carries out heart-stopping mission for stranded passengers

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The plane flew from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to the San Juan Airport in Puerto Rico just as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the island.

The Washington Post reports that the plane landed in San Juan just after 12 p.m. and took off 40 minutes later.

Twitter captured Rabinowitz's tweets in a "Moment" titled "Delta flight beats Hurricane Irma".

Radar data of the plane's flight path offered a spectacular show for aviation enthusiasts who followed in real time as Delta Flight 431 headed south right into the risky storm before noon.

A self-described aviation geek, Jason Rabinowitz, was watching flight radars as the storm approached.

By the time the plane was halfway to its destination, flights from JetBlue and American Airlines were already turning around to avoid the category 5 storm.

HuffPost reports that Rabinowitz had acknowledged that Delta left 25 minutes early from NY so as to leave Puerto Rico earlier. On the ground, the Atlanta-based carrier and its staff managed to drop off passengers, unload luggage, refuel, reload luggage, and reload passengers in just 52 minutes, Rabinowitz said.

"It was pretty busy", she said.

At no point during the 3 1/2-hour flight time were the winds on the course particularly unsafe but conditions were "rapidly degrading" as time went on. The jet, destined for JFK Airport in NY, offloaded and then took on passengers in 52 minutes.

"Our meteorology team is the best in the business", Erik Snell, Delta's vice president for operations, said in a statement.

While the escape certainly looks harrowing, the flight crew and Delta Airlines clearly knew that they had a window in which they could operate both flights safely. By 3 p.m., the wind in San Juan had increased to 50 miles per hour and the visibility dropped to a little over a mile.

In the flight path it's clear that the pilots made a point to weave in between the outer bands of the storm to get to and from San Juan.

Delta Air Lines announced Thursday that it's bumped up capacity on flights from at least seven different airports in Irma's path, adding more than 2,000 more tickets, all of which were capped at $399.

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