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

Hurricane Irma Threat Closes Arecibo World's Second Largest Radio Telescope

Nearly 200 people were evacuated from San Juan in Puerto Rico thanks to Delta Airlines just before the island bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma on Wednesday.

A satellite image of the plane's path almost intertwining with Irma's path left many observing the event on edge.

Three other flights (two from JetBlue and one from American) took off from the US but were forced to turn back before reaching the island.

Hurricane Irma continues to damage and flood areas of the Caribbean, leaving nine dead in the wake of its path, CNN reported.

"I did Andrew", said Edreira, 49, recalling the Category 5 hurricane that ripped off her roof 25 years ago last month.

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which features a 1,000-foot-wide (305 meters) radio dish, is closed for safety reasons until further notice, telescope representatives said via Twitter on Tuesday (Sept. 5). Airlines typically move their fleets away from storms, parking them at other airports out of harm's way.

Conditions were ramping up as the aircraft left San Juan, with winds buffeting trees at the airport and dark clouds hanging overhead.

Including taxiing in and out, the plane was on the ground for only 52 minutes, according to data tweeted out by Jason Rabinowitz.

HuffPost reports that Rabinowitz had acknowledged that Delta left 25 minutes early from NY so as to leave Puerto Rico earlier.

Flight 431 left New York's John F. Kennedy Airport just after 8 a.m. ET Tuesday, and was closely tracked as it flew to the island.

According to Delta, its meteorology team had deemed the plane safe to fly into the storm.

Fifty-two minutes after landing, the time had come. Winds were recorded at 28 miles per hour with gusts up to 30 miles per hour - well under the maximum limits for their Boeing 737-900ER plane to operate safely.

"Our meteorology team is the best in the business", explained Erik Snell, vice president for Delta operations and customer centre.

Experts praised the airline's forecasters, dispatchers and flight and ground crews for the successful flight after it returned from San Juan. Flight 302 departed San Juan with 173 passengers on board, the airline said.

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