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Is it secure to fly over a hurricane? A JetBlue airplane flew proper over Fiona

As Hurricane Fiona pulled away from the Dominican Republic, ultimately strengthening into the 12 months’s first Class 3 main storm, greater than two-dozen flights in a foreign country’s greatest airport had been canceled. However one made it out.

The flight, headed from Punta Cana to Newark by way of JetBlue late Monday, took off almost 5 hours late, simply after 7 pm It appeared on flight trackers as a lone craft in the midst of a swirling hurricane. It sparked alarm amongst some climate and aviation observers and prompted a query: Are you able to fly over a hurricane?

“I’ve seen the JetBlue flight that apparently went over Fiona and I’ll say that relying on cloud high heights you CAN fly over a hurricane,” tweeted Nick Underwood, an aerospace engineer who flies into the center of storms as a member of the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Hunters to gather important knowledge.

However, I added, “it’s nonetheless not one thing I might advocate.”

It’s not unprecedented for pilots to steer near or over storms, and it may be completed safely, meteorologists and aviation consultants mentioned. Pilots can make choices based mostly on climate in session with the Federal Aviation Administration and with their airways’ personal consultants — as was the case Monday night, a JetBlue spokesman mentioned. The JetBlue flight landed safely at Newark Worldwide Airport simply earlier than 11 pm Monday.

Flight trackers present a number of different JetBlue flights handed by means of Fiona late Monday into Tuesday.

Whereas the FAA supplies some advisory info, it’s finally as much as the airways and their workforce of meteorologists to find out whether or not a flight is secure sufficient for passengers.

Fiona barreling towards Canada as menace to US grows from new disturbance

The airline had been monitoring Fiona to find out routes to securely navigate round or above the system, spokesman Derek Dombrowski mentioned, including that the airline had canceled many flights that might not depart safely.

“Every flight is deliberate by a workforce of consultants who then monitor progress of the flight and climate constantly,” Dombrowski mentioned in an e-mail. “It is very important perceive that when routing a flight each the course and the peak of the climate system are factored into our decision-making.”

The principle risks in flying close to or by means of hurricanes contain lightning, hail and winds, that are strongest close to the middle of a storm and differ in course round it. There’s additionally concern about updrafts—sturdy vertically oriented blasts of wind current in any kind of thunderstorm. One FAA report from 2011 warns of the potential for “violent turbulence wherever inside 20 miles of very sturdy thunderstorms.”

“An plane when sufficiently excessive sufficient can fly safely above a hurricane so long as they keep away from the person thunderstorms that generally are adjoining to the hurricane,” a spokesman for the Skilled Pilots Affiliation, a nonprofit group by means of which pilots focus on security, advised The Washington Publish.

Nonetheless, such circumstances close by would in all probability not make for a nice flight, mentioned Randy Bass, an authorized consulting meteorologist who runs Bass Climate Companies.

“I would not have wished to be on that flight,” Bass mentioned.

Fiona was a Class 2 hurricane with most wind speeds of 110 mph at its core Monday night, in keeping with the Nationwide Hurricane Heart. Information exhibits the peak of its clouds would have made it tough for any plane to keep away from.

On the time of the flight, clouds across the hurricane’s eye had been as excessive as 45,000 ft, whereas on the outer fringes of the storm they had been between about 33,000 and 39,000 ft, in keeping with satellite tv for pc knowledge. Generally, Class 2 hurricane clouds attain altitudes from about 33,000 to 46,000 ft.

A mapped monitor of JetBlue Flight 1016 from Flightradar24 exhibits the Airbus A320 flew at altitudes between about 30,000 ft and 34,000 ft when it handed close to Fiona.

Even for the NOAA Hurricane Hunters, security is a high consideration when planning routes into and round hurricanes. The workforce, which gathers knowledge used to higher perceive and forecast hurricanes, flies its Lockheed WP-3D Orion planes into the center of storms at altitudes of 8,000 to 10,000 ft. To discover circumstances above and round hurricanes, it flies its Gulfstream IV-SP plane at between 41,000 to 45,000 ft, spokesman Jonathan Shannon mentioned.

Shannon mentioned it could be tough to estimate how excessive any plane would must be above a storm to keep away from turbulence, noting, “each storm will be totally different.”

For higher forecasts, hurricane hunters probe deep into storms

Hurricane Fiona battered Puerto Rico Sunday, leaving nearly 600,000 residents with out energy earlier than transferring towards neighboring Dominican Republic. Hours earlier than the flight, as much as 20 inches of rain was reported on the jap aspect of the Dominican Republic, the place the Punta Cana airport is stationed, in keeping with the Nationwide Hurricane Heart. The middle additionally warned of life-threatening flash and concrete flooding within the area.

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