US airline accidentally flies wrong plane from LA to Hawaii

American Airlines flew an Airbus A321 without proper long-range overwater certification from Los Angeles to Honolulu

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The Independent Travel

A US airline says it will "figure out what we can do better" - after it accidentally flew the wrong plane from Los Angeles to Hawaii.

American Airlines is now revising its procedures after flying an Airbus A321 without proper long-range overwater certification from Los Angeles to Honolulu on 31 August, aviation blogger Brian Summers reported.

Aircraft travelling from the West Coast of America to Hawaii fly over the Pacific Ocean for the majority of the journey and must carry more safety equipment than other planes, such as oxygen tanks and special fire suppression systems.

With these special systems in place the aircraft becomes ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) certified.

Obtaining ETOPS certification is a complicated process, according to Mr Summers. As there is no need to certify aircraft that will not fly on long routes over water, American Airlines has two types of A321s – the A321H, which can fly to Hawaii, and the A321S, which cannot.

In August the airline flew an A321S on Flight 31 from LA to Honolulu, spokesman Casey Norton confirmed.

As both versions of the A321 are fundamentally the same aircraft and each has emergency life rafts and vests required for a water evacuation, the error was not necessarily dangerous but was a major violation of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

An member of airline staff discovered the mistake while the aircraft was mid-flight. American Airlines decided to continue on to Honolulu, Norton told briansummers.com.

The return flight was cancelled and the aircraft was flown back to LA empty.

“When we noticed it, we immediately undertook an internal investigation, and we alerted the FAA,” Norton said.

“We are checking our internal procedures, everything that led up to the departure. We are going to figure out what we can do better.”

He added that the airline had made some “changes to software systems” following the incident. 

American Airlines began flying the Airbus A321 to Hawaii just days before the mix up.

Speaking to the Washington Post Summers said the mistake was “really rare”.

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