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Is it secure to fly over a hurricane? A JetBlue airplane flew proper over Fiona – The Washington Submit

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 overseas’s largest airport had been canceled. However one made it out.

The flight, headed from Punta Cana to Newark through JetBlue late Monday, took off almost 5 hours late, simply after 7 p.m. 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 prime 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 very important information.

However, he added, “it’s nonetheless not one thing I’d suggest.”

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

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

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

Fiona barreling toward Canada as threat to U.S. grows from new disturbance

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

“Every flight is deliberate by a staff of specialists who then monitor progress of the flight and climate repeatedly,” Dombrowski stated in an electronic mail. “It is very important perceive that when routing a flight each the route and the peak of the climate system are factored into our decision-making.”

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

“An plane when sufficiently excessive sufficient can fly safely above a hurricane so long as they keep away from the person thunderstorms that typically are adjoining to the hurricane,” a spokesperson for the Skilled Pilots Affiliation, a nonprofit group by which pilots talk about security, informed The Submit.

Nonetheless, such circumstances close by would probably not make for a pleasing flight, stated Randy Bass, an authorized consulting meteorologist who runs Bass Climate Providers.

“I wouldn’t have wished to be on that flight,” Bass stated.

Fiona was a Class 2 hurricane with most wind speeds of 110 mph at its core Monday night, in line with the Nationwide Hurricane Middle. Knowledge present 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 line with satellite tv for pc data. Typically, 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 hurricane hunters, security is a prime consideration when planning routes into and round hurricanes. The staff, which gathers information 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 stated.

Shannon stated it will be tough to estimate how excessive any plane would should be above a storm to keep away from turbulence, noting, “each storm will be completely different.”

For better forecasts, hurricane hunters probe deep into storms

Hurricane Fiona battered Puerto Rico Sunday, leaving virtually 600,000 residents with out energy earlier than shifting the 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 line with the Nationwide Hurricane Middle (NHC). The NHC additionally warned of life-threatening flash and concrete flooding within the area.

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