Oops: American Air Took Wrong Plane to Hawaii
Airbus wasn't certified for long flights over water
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2015 9:43 AM CDT
In this 2014 file photo, an American Airlines Airbus A319 is parked at a gate at Philadelphia International Airport.   (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Philadelphia Daily News via AP, File)

(Newser) – Good news, twitchy fliers: Your fears of flying aren't completely irrational. The latest tale of concern comes via American Airlines, which apparently managed to fly the wrong plane to Hawaii last month in a decided FAA no-no. The incident, first reported by aviation blogger Brian Sumers after he spotted pilots chatting anonymously online, happened when American started flying Airbus A321s from Los Angeles to Hawaii. American has two versions of the A321, notes Sumers: Those approved for long flights over water—an FAA certification called ETOPS—and those that are not. American accidentally grabbed an A321 that wasn't certified for the Aug. 31 flight, notes the Washington Post, a mistake that wasn't noticed until halfway through the flight.

"Immediately when we realize what happened, we notified the FAA and we are working and fully cooperating with them," says an American rep; the airline decided to continue the flight and then flew the plane back to LA empty. "We also have an ongoing, thorough review of our policies and procedures." That apparently includes a software upgrade to ensure " the correct aircraft is identified to fly the correct route." But as for how likely you are to land on a non-certified plane in an ocean setting, "it’s really rare," Sumers tells the Post. "Something like this, when you talk to airline people, they say ‘How does this happen? This can’t happen?'" The FAA is also curious as to how this happened, notes Sumers, and is investigating.