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A JetBlue plane went over Hurricane Fiona on its flight from the Dominican Republic to Newark

Business Insider logo Business Insider 9/23/2022 (Ryan Hogg)
The JetBlue flight from Punta Cana to Newark traveled over the hurricane. FlightAware © Provided by Business Insider The JetBlue flight from Punta Cana to Newark traveled over the hurricane. FlightAware
  • A JetBlue flight traveled above Hurricane Fiona on Monday in an unusual flight path, per WaPo.
  • Airline consulted the FAA and its meteorologists for the flight path, a spokesperson told Insider.
  • FlightAware data shows it flew at 30,000 to 34,000 feet, as storm clouds reached 45,000 feet.

Airlines usually go to great lengths to ensure their planes avoid large storms, but sometimes there is a way around the problem.

In the case of a JetBlue flight from Punta Cana to Newark on Monday, the solution was to go over Hurricane Fiona, The Washington Post reported. 

Fiona brought winds of up to 130 miles per hour as it swept across the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico on Wednesday, leaving eight dead, per Reuters. It turned into a Category 4 storm at its peak on Wednesday.

Data from FlightAware shows the Airbus A320 flying over the then Category 2 storm on its journey from the Dominican Republic. On Monday night, data shows the storm clouds reached as high as 45,000 feet.

The JetBlue plane flew between 30,000 and 34,000 feet on Monday, per FlightAware, suggesting it would have been difficult to avoid all aspects of the storm.

JetBlue told the Post that the airline consulted with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before making a decision on flights, and had canceled some accordingly but others still went ahead.

"Each flight is planned by a team of experts who then monitor progress of the flight and weather continuously," JetBlue spokesperson Derek Dombrowski told Insider in an email.

"It is important to understand that when routing a flight both the direction and the height of the weather system are factored into our decision-making."

Randy Bass, a meteorologist who runs Bass Weather Services, told the Post: "I wouldn't have wanted to be on that flight."

However, meteorologist and pilot James Aydelott said in a 2018 interview with The Points Guy that it was safe to fly above a hurricane.

Most tropical systems and hurricanes were not as high as traditional thunderstorms, he said. "As far as flying goes, there should be no issues flying above a hurricane in an aircraft equipped to monitor radar echo tops."

Flying near a hurricane can still make for an unpleasant journey, with a 2011 report by the FAA suggesting planes "can encounter hail and violent turbulence anywhere within 20 miles of very strong thunderstorms."

Medical emergencies, a loss of air pressure or an engine failure could also theoretically force a plane to descend into a storm. 

JetBlue didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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