Delta 767 Diversion Leaves Passengers on a Remote Pacific Island on Christmas Eve

Dec 25, 2018

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Delta passengers on a flight from Beijing (PEK) to Seattle (SEA) had a wrench thrown into their Christmas Eve travel when a suspected mechanical problem forced their plane off course on Monday.

Delta flight DL128 made an unexpected stop on the remote island of Shemya in the Aleutian Islands on Christmas Eve. The diversion was caused by what is being reported as “potential engine issue.”

Some on Twitter were quick to note it’s not the best place in the world to have to divert:

Others had more global concerns:

Delta Air Lines quickly — well as could be expected for such a remote location — dispatched another plane to the remote island to retrieve its stranded passengers. The new plane reached Seattle around 9pm local time, ensuring that all passengers still made it home for Christmas, even if they were left a bit chilly from their time on the island.

Shemya has a long history involving aviation. The US Air Force opened a base on the island in 1943. That base is still in operation today. In 1956, now-defunct Northwest Airlines leased the island from the US government to use it as a refueling station for its “Orient Express” services between the United States and Asia. Northwest claims this made it the first airline to operate its own airport.

Though remote, this isn’t the first time aircraft have unexpectedly landed at Shemya during an emergency. In 1993, China Eastern flight 538 diverted to the island. The MD-11 made an emergency landing after a crew member accidentally deployed the plane’s slats while cruising at altitude. The resulting oscillations of the aircraft caused serious injuries to some passengers and crew, resulting in two deaths.

Delta hasn’t made it clear yet exactly what caused the reported engine issues for its 767.

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