Airline Flies Non-ETOPS Certified Plane to Hawaii

American Airlines accidentally flew the wrong plane from Los Angeles to Hawaii, a “mix-up” that severely violates the Federal Aviation Administration regulations. The mistake, which occurred in late August, was first reported by an aviation blogger. The mistake was made just days after the airline began flying Airbus A321 planes on the L.A. to Hawaii route (other American Airline planes have always flown this route).

An American Airlines spokesman confirmed that a version of the A321 plane, a non-ETOPS certified plane that was not certified to make long flights over water, such as the route from L.A. to Hawaii, was accidentally flown on that day – a mistake that professionally trained aircraft dispatchers could have prevented.

The mistake was caught midway through the flight, but a decision was made to continue anyways to Hawaii. The returning flight was canceled by the airline and the empty plane was flown back to Los Angeles.

Planes that fly routes without a suitable landing area are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to have a certification called ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards), which is primarily an administrative requirement, but also requires planes to be equipped with extra oxygen and fire suppression canisters.

The A321 planes can be either ETOPS certified or non-ETOPS certified. Both planes have the same number of life vests, rafts, and engine range. Airlines don’t certify all planes, just the ones that are used to fly the long range routes over water. Flying a non-ETOPS certified plane is a big mistake, but extremely rare and is not something that slips through aircraft dispatchers fingers often at all.

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