Hawaiian Airlines A330 Diverts To Remote Midway Atoll

Hawaiian Airlines A330 Diverts To Remote Midway Atoll

36

Hawaiian Airlines had a pretty exciting flight diversion yesterday…

Hawaiian Airlines Incheon to Honolulu flight diverts

On Friday, September 24, 2021, Hawaiian Airlines flight 460 was scheduled to operate from Seoul Incheon to Honolulu. The flight was operated by a nearly 10-year-old Airbus A330-200 with the registration code N386HA.

The flight was scheduled to cover a distance of 4,577 miles and take 9hr5min, but it didn’t quite operate as planned. It’s reported that one of the engines had a low oil pressure indication, so the decision was made to divert. The issue with Pacific crossings is that there aren’t all that many diversion points, as you may be able to figure out by looking at a map. Well, at least there don’t appear to be many diversion points unless you zoom really far in, and consider some of the remote islands out there that have runways (even if they’re not often used).

The decision was made to divert to Sand Island in the Midway Atoll (airport code MDY). This is a 2.4 square mile atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, just over 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu, right near the International Dateline.

Hawaiian Airlines’ diversion to Midway Atoll

There’s a 7,800 foot runway there, so it’s plenty long for a large plane to land (and to take off with limited fuel).

Midway Atoll Airport

For those not familiar with the Midway Atoll, it’s an insular area of the United States, and an unorganized and unincorporated territory. It’s the only island in the Hawaiian Archipelago that’s not part of the state of Hawaii. As you might have guessed based on the name, the Midway Atoll is roughly midway between North America and Asia.

The atoll is home to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife refuge, and about 40 people live on the atoll, primarily consisting of staff of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as contract workers. The atoll isn’t open to tourists, but rather you can only visit for business reasons… or, well, I suppose flight diversions.

Midway Atoll

What happened then?

With the Hawaiian Airlines A330 having landed safely in Midway Atoll, what happened next? Hawaiian Airlines acted pretty quickly:

  • Once Hawaiian Airlines knew that the plane was diverting to the Midway Atoll, the airline immediately sent a “rescue” plane there as well — specifically, another Airbus A330 with the registration code N381HA
  • That rescue plane had some mechanics on it who would work on fixing the aircraft, as well as a relief crew, to fly the plane back; then the passengers and crew took the rescue plane back to Honolulu
  • After only being on the ground for a few hours, the rescue plane operated the remainder of the flight to Honolulu in a flight time of just over three hours

As of now the original A330 continues to sit on the ground at Midway Airport — I’m curious how long it takes to fix the plane and fly it back to Honolulu. I’m also curious how exactly they swapped planes. Were bags transfered to the new plane as well, and if so, do the flight attendants and pilots just do that, or…?

The avgeek in me finds this kind of cool

First and foremost, no one was injured, so this is hopefully a case of “all’s well that ends well.” I also hope that the experience wasn’t too traumatic for passengers — admittedly everyone has different tolerance for this kind of stuff, though usually a low oil pressure indicator is easy enough to deal with, so it’s not like a firm warning, or something.

As an avgeek, I always love watching the airshow as I fly across the Pacific, and I study at all the small islands we pass. Is it wrong that I secretly hope for a diversion to be able to land at one of these airports some day? I’d never wish for a medical diversion (because it means someone is having problems) or a serious mechanical issue, but rather something a bit more minor.

I should probably just be careful what I wish for, because then you have diversions like the below one from several years ago, which looked beyond terrifying. A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 flying from Hong Kong to Los Angeles had an emergency, to the point that the crew was preparing for a water ditching, and told passengers to put on their life vests. Fortunately the plane managed to divert to Eareckson Air Station, a remote air base in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. I can’t imagine how scary the whole situation must have been, though.

I suppose one could just take the United Airlines “Island Hopper,” which is just a slightly less remote version of some of these diversions.

Bottom line

A Hawaiian Airlines A330 flying from Seoul Incheon to Honolulu had to divert to the Midway Atoll due to engine issues. The plane landed without incident, and Hawaiian Airlines seems to have handled this well, quickly sending a rescue plane and maintenance technicians. This way passengers could quickly continue their journey to Honolulu, while mechanics and an extra crew could get the plane fixed, and hopefully back to Honolulu soon.

While flight diversions are common, it’s less common to have such a remote diversion.

Have any OMAAT readers had a flight diversion to a remote airport?

(Tip of the hat to airliners.net)

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  1. RT Flyer

    I got to visit Midway Island Naval Air Station twice in the early '70s. Both were to ferry aircraft back to US bases in the Pacific after they had completed major maintenance (called IRAAN). First in 1971 was a T-29 (Convair 240), whose limited range force our route to go through Adak, Alaska, before heading to Midway. The second one was in 1975 when we returned a C-130 to Naha AB, Okinawa from IRAAN at...

    I got to visit Midway Island Naval Air Station twice in the early '70s. Both were to ferry aircraft back to US bases in the Pacific after they had completed major maintenance (called IRAAN). First in 1971 was a T-29 (Convair 240), whose limited range force our route to go through Adak, Alaska, before heading to Midway. The second one was in 1975 when we returned a C-130 to Naha AB, Okinawa from IRAAN at Robins AFB Ga. There were hundreds of "goonie birds" (Laysan Albatross) nesting on the island. Not a lot to do except walk the beaches and overnight to head out the next day.

  2. Steve

    I was fortunate to have a couple of jobs which allowed me to go to Midway and several other remote Islands in the pacific. The 2 most memorable were Johnston Atoll and Midway. I have been to Midway several dozen times to pickup Medevac patients usually from passing freighters. The most unique feature about visiting Midway was the times we were there during the gooney bird nesting season. We would try to arrive around dawn...

    I was fortunate to have a couple of jobs which allowed me to go to Midway and several other remote Islands in the pacific. The 2 most memorable were Johnston Atoll and Midway. I have been to Midway several dozen times to pickup Medevac patients usually from passing freighters. The most unique feature about visiting Midway was the times we were there during the gooney bird nesting season. We would try to arrive around dawn when the birds were least active. The gooney birds are not afraid of humans and don't see any reason to move just because a vehicle or person is near them. When the gooney birds are in residence the base fire department would drive a pickup up down the runway with a couple of guys in back who would pick them up (without harming them) and put them in the bed of the truck and once it was full or the runway clear they would drive away from the runway and dump the birds out.

    Frequently we would fly into Midway on our C-130 and not shut down during the patient pickup. If this occurred during the young gooney birds fledgling phase they would waddle out on the taxi way and get behind the aircraft and hop up and down in the prop wash of the parked aircraft to get some flying practice in.

  3. Jamieo

    Aloha Airlines used to have a weekly flight from HNL for a limited tourist operation, since closed. They also had a special where you could fly out, have a three hour tour by the island manager, and then fly back on the return. I did this and got the elusive Midway passport stamp.

  4. Abey

    No mention of the battle of Midway? The defining point in the pacific theater

  5. wsanders

    I wonder if they went through customs there, it would be pretty cool to have your passport stamped with Midway Island.

    1. MKLDH

      I'd be surprised if they had CBP facilities there...

    2. Wilhelm

      Customs don’t stamp passports. Immigration does.

  6. SQ51

    Can you PLEASE do the island Hopper flights and write a report?

    Sincerely,
    Every OMAAT reader

  7. Pete Bob

    How do I find a job on Midway Island? It would heaven for me.

    1. Mike1977

      Join the US Coast guard

  8. Steve

    I was involved with a similar incident in the 1980's era. An American 767 was flying from JFK-LHR. It passed over Goose Bay Labrador and got a low press warning light on 1 engine. The pilot shut the engine down and landed at Goose Bay. DFW dispatch advised us at JFK of the situation. American had a spare 767 at JFK. They called a reserve flight crew and 2 mechanics. Me being one of them....

    I was involved with a similar incident in the 1980's era. An American 767 was flying from JFK-LHR. It passed over Goose Bay Labrador and got a low press warning light on 1 engine. The pilot shut the engine down and landed at Goose Bay. DFW dispatch advised us at JFK of the situation. American had a spare 767 at JFK. They called a reserve flight crew and 2 mechanics. Me being one of them. The replacement aircraft would be sent to EUROPE. I was a Crew Chief Mechanic and ETOPS qualified to dispatch the aircraft.

  9. Fred

    Battle of Midway was the decisive turning point of the US Pacific campaign in WWII. Also Chicago's city airport is named after this battle - MDW

    1. Dr. Stan

      @Fred
      Thank you,
      for mentioning the 2 connections that dumb me never made...Midway in Chicago and the battle, which I think my father fought in.

    2. Eskimo

      People with hate me for this. But this is my opinion.

      No disrespect to the people involved, any sides.
      I think the Battle of Midway was never a turning point, but merely a propaganda by the US after failing at Pearl Harbor. Yes it was a big battle. The only thing decisive was for the Empire of Japan to realize they have greatly underestimated USA and they have no chance of winning Pacific. USA...

      People with hate me for this. But this is my opinion.

      No disrespect to the people involved, any sides.
      I think the Battle of Midway was never a turning point, but merely a propaganda by the US after failing at Pearl Harbor. Yes it was a big battle. The only thing decisive was for the Empire of Japan to realize they have greatly underestimated USA and they have no chance of winning Pacific. USA was never going to lose at Midway, nothing decisive about that (But maybe Yamamoto didn't know that yet). If USA fumbled at Midway worse than at Pearl Harbor then USA would lose Hawaii but that's it, west coast was too big for an invasion.
      Because US morale was low, this was the greatest opportunity to promote war propaganda (sell bonds) and raise morale and unity. Just like the opportunity 9/11 presented. (We get to rally people to go occupy Afghanistan for 20 years, just to lose it in 2 weeks)

      The attack on Pearl Harbor was the first turning point. Yamamoto focused too much on Battleships not carriers. All 3 main carrier group was never at Pearl Harbor. Ironically, it was the Japanese carriers not battleships that won Pearl Harbor. Had Japan sunk the carriers, who knows what the war would look like.

      The 2nd turning point was the Manhattan Project but not the bomb itself. It gave USA a undisputed weapon. Hiroshima and Nagasaki was just another US propaganda that might have ended the war few months sooner but it never would have changed the outcome of the war. It was matter of time before the war ended. It was picking a fight bigger than what an island nation can handle that cost them the war.

      Japan lost the war because it underestimated Soviet and USA powers. They can't hold on 2 battlefronts at the same time. But as you can see, the propaganda is still strong today.

    3. Johnston Island Guy

      I completely disagree.

      "Japan lost the war because it underestimated Soviet and USA powers."

      The Soviet Union didn't declare war on the Empire of Japan until the last few weeks of the war.

      You really need to focus on historical facts not distorted fiction.

    4. Eskimo

      Well isn't that my point of the Manhattan Project and not Hiroshima or Nagasaki?
      WW2 could have ended without nuclear bombs because the Soviets are preparing to join after the fall of Berlin.

      So you disagree but your reason is exactly what I said.

      Maybe all those radioactive and chemical stuff we dumped on your island causes some issues for you.

    5. The Pacific Theater in one post

      I'm going to take the conventional view. Midway was the turning point because it was the high-water mark of the Japanese territorial expansion. Had Japan taken Midway Atoll with the invasion force that was following its carriers, it would have been able to control the sea lanes out of Pearl - flying from Sand Island airfield - until it was dislodged.

      Moreover, at the battle, the IJN lost four carriers it could not replace, in...

      I'm going to take the conventional view. Midway was the turning point because it was the high-water mark of the Japanese territorial expansion. Had Japan taken Midway Atoll with the invasion force that was following its carriers, it would have been able to control the sea lanes out of Pearl - flying from Sand Island airfield - until it was dislodged.

      Moreover, at the battle, the IJN lost four carriers it could not replace, in a war that it started with air power and in which air power proved preeminent.

    6. Steve

      Sorry but you are way off Eskimo, you would think Japan would have surrendered after the first atomic bomb but they didnt and chose to keep fighting until after the 2nd was dropped.

    7. Eskimo

      @Steve

      Sorry but you are way off. Japan didn't even surrender right after the 2nd bomb. And as @Johnston the radioactive guy said, they were still fighting the Soviets after the 2nd bomb.
      Under your logic and the intervals of each bomb (3 days), Japan would have had 4 bombs and if you count to the formal surrender, it would have been 9 bombs.

      Have some respect for the Japanese. You're not the only...

      @Steve

      Sorry but you are way off. Japan didn't even surrender right after the 2nd bomb. And as @Johnston the radioactive guy said, they were still fighting the Soviets after the 2nd bomb.
      Under your logic and the intervals of each bomb (3 days), Japan would have had 4 bombs and if you count to the formal surrender, it would have been 9 bombs.

      Have some respect for the Japanese. You're not the only one who lost grand parents to the war, they lost families too. But USA got away with atrocities because the Allied won the war.

  10. Jim

    Glad everyone was safe, and hope they enjoyed the view landing at MDW. Actually stunning. Midway is not only famous for the WWII naval battle, but home or "goodie birds", sea albatross that fly across the pacific and nest at Midway. It also was the deployment field for USN AEWBARRONPAC squadrons flying radar patrols through 1960s. My good fortunate being part of many safe ladings there. There isn't much between Asia and Hawaii except Midway...

    Glad everyone was safe, and hope they enjoyed the view landing at MDW. Actually stunning. Midway is not only famous for the WWII naval battle, but home or "goodie birds", sea albatross that fly across the pacific and nest at Midway. It also was the deployment field for USN AEWBARRONPAC squadrons flying radar patrols through 1960s. My good fortunate being part of many safe ladings there. There isn't much between Asia and Hawaii except Midway so good the runway has been maintained.

  11. Tyler

    I was flying F on the CX flight you mentioned. It was a wild experience. Flight attendants were visibly shaken (one told me she’s flown with Cathay for thirty years and hadn’t experienced anything like it), and we spent about eight hours on the ground in Shemya if memory serves me correctly, then flew the same plane to Anchorage where a rescue plane took us the rest of the way. I was flying in 2A...

    I was flying F on the CX flight you mentioned. It was a wild experience. Flight attendants were visibly shaken (one told me she’s flown with Cathay for thirty years and hadn’t experienced anything like it), and we spent about eight hours on the ground in Shemya if memory serves me correctly, then flew the same plane to Anchorage where a rescue plane took us the rest of the way. I was flying in 2A so had a front row seat to all the action. Still have a ton of photos from that day.

    1. Sean

      @Tyler

      No one believes you.

    2. Tyler

      That’s fine - I could show you about 50 pictures from the experience.

    3. Eskimo

      And we're told the wolf ate @Sean along with 50 pictures of dead sheep.

      Don't care who to believe, but this is entertaining.
      LOL

    4. UA-NYC

      First-hand accounts add a lot to this site and the loyal readers. Why do you have to be a dick? SMH.

    5. apume

      How can I see those pics? Can you share them with me please?

    6. Sean

      He doesn't have any pics.

    7. Tyler

      @ Sean What is your deal? Did I do something to you? Not sure what your view of humanity is, but it seems to be a rather sad one if your first conclusion is that someone you have never met would find trolling a travel board with lies a good use of their time.

    8. Tyler

      @apume Not sure how I would do that, but I would be happy to share the photos and experience with anyone who cares to see!

    9. apume

      Can you create a shared album on google photos and post the link here? Or share your email id so I can write to you directly and share that way?

    10. Sean

      He's not going to share something he doesnt have.

    11. Sean

      What?! No pics? Color me surprised!

  12. DaninMCI

    Glad they landed safely. The guys over at Dots, Lines, and Destinations are going to be jealous of this dot for sure.

  13. Douglas Frost DeNunzio

    The diversion technically in flight attendant training happens when one has a problem with weather that is somewhat dangerously affected by the weather outside.

  14. John

    Aside from the immense historic significance of Midway in WWII, it’s also worth nothing that Midway is where transpacific airline service began. It was one of the original stopover points for Pan Am flying boats from Honolulu to Hong Kong. It even had a Pan Am hotel, predecessor to what became the Intercontinental Hotel chain.

    http://www.midway-island.com/history/pan-american-airlines/

  15. Never In Doubt

    They earned the rare “Midway Island achievement badge”!

Featured Comments Load all 36 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

UA-NYC

First-hand accounts add a lot to this site and the loyal readers. Why do you have to be a dick? SMH.

Johnston Island Guy

I completely disagree. "Japan lost the war because it underestimated Soviet and USA powers." The Soviet Union didn't declare war on the Empire of Japan until the last few weeks of the war. You really need to focus on historical facts not distorted fiction.

MKLDH

I'd be surprised if they had CBP facilities there...

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