A JetBlue flight took off from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic on Monday, headed to Newark Airport, New Jersey.
Normally, there wouldn’t be anything unusual about that — except that the plane ended up flying directly over the swirling and powerful winds of Hurricane Fiona.
The flight path took the plane near the top of the hurricane clouds as it flew back to the US, threatening some serious turbulence, according to The Washington Post.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to be on that flight,” Randy Bass, a meteorologist, told the paper.
JetBlue Flight 1016 took off at about 7pm on Monday, five hours later than scheduled, according to Flightradar24.
Earlier that day, Hurricane Fiona had battered the Dominican Republic, leaving much of the country without electricity or running water — and canceling many flights.
As the flight took off that evening, the storm had moved north, taking the plane’s path directly over some of its western clouds.
A JetBlue representative told the Post that flight safety is determined by pilots, who consult with experts at the Federal Aviation Administration and their airline. The Independent reached out to JetBlue for comment on Monday’s flight.
The flight path recorded at Flightradar24 shows the plane flying at about 34,000 feet (10,300 meters) in the air — definitely high above the ground, but about on par with the top edge of a hurricane. The outer edges of the storm had clouds up to about 33,000 – 39,000 ft (10,000 – 11,800 m), the Post reports.
Even flying through smaller, less-powerful thunderstorms can create unpleasant turbulence during a flight. But John Cox, a retired airline captain, recently wrote that flights can sometimes go safely over a hurricane in USA Today.
Some specialized pilots actually fly planes directly into hurricanes to study the storms but not usually with commercial passengers aboard.
Hurricane Fiona caused widespread damage in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as it swept into the Caribbean earlier this week, including in Punta Cana. Photos showed many buildings damaged or destroyed in the popular resort town.
The storm then turned north and strengthened into a major hurricane while heading towards Bermuda.
Late Friday, the storm is scheduled to make landfall in Atlantic Canada — where it could be one of the strongest storms to ever hit the country.
Residents in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, as well as parts of Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and the Labrador Peninsula have been asked to prepare for a potentially “historic” storm.
The climate crisis is expected to make hurricanes stronger as it increases global ocean and air temperatures, conditions that can drive more powerful storms.