The flight was the last to leave San Juan before Irma landed.
As Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, closed in on the coast of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, there was one aircraft racing against the clock as all other flights were canceled.
At least two other flights had also left for San Juan around the same time, but had to be diverted, the Huffington Post reported.
Aviation writer and researcher Jason Rabinowitz monitored the flight on Flightradar24, and tweeted out updates from the Delta airline’s intense flight. In his tweets, you can clearly see the relatively tiny plane coming closer and closer to the gigantic hurricane on the map.
The plane landed in San Juan around noon, local time. But it was not finished racing the storm.
According to Rabinowitz’s updates, the plane’s return flight, Delta Flight 302, bumped up its departure time by 25 minutes in order to give the flight its best chance at beating the weather conditions.
The flight took off from San Juan at 12:41 p.m., just 40 minutes after landing.
The return flight landed safely at JFK at 4:22 p.m. EST, about 30 minutes early.
Sarah Lora, a Delta spokeswoman, confirmed to HuffPo that Flight 431 flew “on a safe route, touched down, picked up the people that needed to be picked up and made it back to John F. Kennedy.”
Despite the intensity of the situation on the ground, and the incredible damage Irma has already inflicted in just the last 24 hours, Delta said in a statement that conditions on the flight were completely safe — not unlike flying in a thunderstorm.
Flight 431 faced “nine miles of visibility and light rain. Winds were around 24 knots with gusts up to 31 knots ― all well below operating limits for the 737-900ER to safely operate,” the airline said.