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

WATCH ABOVE: Ongoing coverage of Hurricane Irma.

A Delta Airlines flight raced against time to retrieve stranded passengers in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Irma also approached.

READ MORE: Canadians stranded in Irma’s path struggle to come home

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. Several other flights turned around after observing that the storm started to move over the airport. Delta powered on.

READ MORE: With Irma’s damage done, storm-ravaged Caribbean islands now brace for Hurricane Jose

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

The flight landed at Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport around noon and left with 173 passengers on board less than an hour later. The flight was the last one out of the San Juan airport before Irma slammed into the island.

Story continues below advertisement

PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma cuts a path of destruction through the Caribbean

Facebook user Wladimir Castro posted a video of the plane departing the airport as heavy winds and rain pounded down on the pavement.


FlightRadar24, which tracks air traffic, praised Delta for its “impressive work,” explaining that the plane flew back by navigating through a narrow gap between the core of the storm and its outer band.

Vice-president for Delta operations and customer centre, Erik Snell, told The Washington Post that the successful mission was thanks to a joint effort by flight and ground crew, dispatchers and their meteorology team.

COMMENTARY: Climate change is real, so we need to talk about the real causes

“Our meteorology team is the best in the business,” he said. “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.”

The flight landed back in New York at 4:16 p.m. ET, 46 minutes ahead of schedule, according to FlightRadar24.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Hurricane Irma lashes Puerto Rico

Click to play video 'Hurricane Irma lashes Puerto Rico' Hurricane Irma lashes Puerto Rico
Hurricane Irma lashes Puerto Rico

While the flight missed the wrath of the hurricane, those on the island were not as fortunate.

Irma slammed into Puerto Rico soon after, leaving more than one million people without power.

The hurricane’s destruction has led to massive damage across Caribbean islands, leaving 10 confirmed dead.