"Delta gets you there"

This Day in History

Sometimes going that extra mile (or 1604 miles as it were), is simply a matter of taking a step back and thoroughly analyzing a situation before rushing to judgment.  

And on this day in 2017, 173 grateful folks can find solace in the fact that one well-oiled machine did just that.

Just two days ago, as the world was set abuzz about a monstrous storm, the likes of which, both in scale and intensity, the Atlantic has never experienced, Delta Flight 431 was preparing to depart from New York’s JFK airport with plans to land in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

If all went as planned, the flight would land safely, re-board and head back to New York just ahead of the fierce torrents of Hurricane Irma. But as is so often the case, things didn’t go quite as planned.

The Boeing 737-900 left the gate uneventfully at 8:12 a.m. which would have allowed sufficient turn-time and a safe departure just prior to Irma’s landfall arrival onto the island of Puerto Rico.  

However, the not-so-small matter of a 27 minute delay, as the plane sat on an active taxiway, had the potential to change the course of history for those 173 passengers anxiously awaiting its arrival into San Juan.  Their very lives may have depended upon it, in fact.

Although the added wait time prior to departure from NY would be “cutting it close” in terms of the hurricane’s proximity, Delta’s meteorology department (deemed “the best in the industry”) determined after careful study of Irma’s track, that in fact, it was indeed safe to allow the plane to become airborne and head to San Juan as planned.  

Not surprisingly, all other commercial flights into San Juan were suspended at the very time that Delta bravely elected to “stay the course.” A bold move to say the least!


Boeing 737-900

It took the aircraft 3 hours and 49 minutes to land without incident at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan Puerto Rico.  

With mild precipitation, wind gusts of 31 knots and visibility of just under 10 miles, conditions were well-within safe ranges for landing. But what of the much-needed 27 minutes that were lost as the jet sat idly on the taxiway in New York?  

Well, thanks to the facile and coordinated actions of the amazing Delta ground crew and tireless flight crew, the usual turn-time was dramatically abbreviated which enabled the outbound flight to leave a full 24 minutes ahead of its scheduled departure time!  

And as those of us who have limited knowledge of a particular situation often do, many took to Twitter in disbelief of the sole pilot who forged ahead into tenuous conditions when all others turned back. But make no mistake, there was a thoughtful and cautious group of Delta’s finest who only allowed for this maverick maneuver once it was deemed entirely viable.

The Luis Muñoz Marínz International Airport

So while it certainly makes for exciting internet chatter to envision a rogue pilot and crew hellbent on performing a death-defying mission, the truth is that Delta Airlines simply went the extra mile and in doing so determined that DL Flight 302 was entirely viable. 

Of course, the incredible teamwork displayed by both ground and flight crew aided in the safe and speedy departure of the plane just ahead of Hurricane Irma.

And after seeing the destruction wrought by Irma, including three deaths thus far, on the island of Puerto Rico, it would certainly appear that the Captain of Flight 431/302 (under the advisement of the meteorology team and dispatcher) made the right call; just ask the 371 passengers who can rest easy far outside of the throes of the storm until they are able to once again return home.

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