Operations to evacuate while Delta disagreed


TIP OF THE STORM — While Flight 302 was in operation, several viewers watched its route
through online flight trackers as Delta pilots flew the aircraft right over Hurricane Irma. (Wired)

On early Saturday, Sept. 9, Governor of Florida Rick Scott ordered for 6.3 million people to evacuate the state. “The biggest thing you can do now is pray,” Gov. Scott said on Sunday afternoon.

With the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey hitting the south-east coast of Texas, Hurricane Irma will result in similar consequences, initially starting as a Category 5 hurricane when it reached the Caribbean overnight on Sept. 8.

However, it had weakened down to a Category 2 hurricane when it hit through Naples. Its path is predicted to hit up along the western coast of Florida all the way up to Tampa.

Such mass destructions from this tropical storm resulted in millions of residents being ordered to evacuate. Additionally, destruction such as power outages, flooded streets and broken water distribution lines have left thousands homeless. Officials recorded seven deaths in Florida and about 27 people killed in the Caribbean.

Highways were bumper-to-bumper with traffic, while gas stations had to provide fuel for thousands of cars that Friday. It was so severe that some stations had hours-long waiting lines, while some even ran out of fuel.

There was heavy traffic in the airline industry as well. On Monday Sept. 11, Miami International Airport (MIA) closed their passenger flights after Hurricane Irma flooded the terminals. Some officials even suggest that the water damage had seeped through the airport’s glass panes. The aviation director and CEO of Miami International Airport, Emilio Gonzalez, tweeted on Sunday that the air- port “sustained significant water damage throughout.”

While airlines are still able to transport flight members into the airport to allow for preparation for recovery, MIA had to cancel hundreds of incoming and outgoing flights scheduled for the weekend due to the hurricane. However, one airline demonstrated heroic actions as it successfully flew over Hurricane Irma from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU).

Delta Airlines Flight 431 de- parted from the JFK airport gate at 8:12 a.m. to arrive in San Juan. At that time, the airplane, Boeing 737-900ER flew over the Caribbean when Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds. The three hour, 49 minute flight turned into a treacherous race to beat the storm as several aviation fans were monitoring the flight progress through online tracking services.

The flight landed at 12:01 p.m. at SJU where light rainfall and mild wind gusts were hovering the city. However, these are safe conditions within the operating limits for the aircraft to function properly.

To execute Delta Flight 302, which was the route from SJU to JFK, only a 40-minute turn around was required. This returning flight departed the San Juan gate 24 minutes earlier than planned.

Several crew members were involved in this operation. Not only were the pilots responsible, but the air traffic control, the fueling equipment and ground support staff all had to focus efficiently. Even the flight attendants had to guide passengers onto the plane quickly. As Flight 302 made its way back to JFK, it carried 173 customers, arriving back home at 4:22 p.m.

Delta officials safely monitored this plan as Erik Snell, Delta’s vice president for operations and customer center, says “Our meteorology team is the best in the business. 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.” Taking thorough precautions for risky procedures easily determines the fate of passengers with Delta being the hero of it all.

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