A United Airlines Boeing 787-9 traveling with cargo from Guam to Los Angeles made an unscheduled stop on Midway Atoll after a mechanical issue developed.
United 787-9 Diverts To Midway Atoll
The Dreamliner was operating a cargo-only segment from GUM to LAX to deliver much-needed supplies to the U.S. island territory. However, during the flight, UA2781 on April 16th, a technical problem developed and the flight crew opted to divert to Midway Atoll (MDY – also called Midway Island, not to be confused with Chicago Midway Airport, designated by the code MDW).
Midway Atoll is a small, circular atoll roughly equidistant between North America and Asia, about 1,310 miles from Honolulu. It is home to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and hosts a staff of about 40 from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
During World War II, it was used as a strategic Pacific base in the war against Japan. The Battle of Midway, which took place in June 1942, marked a turning point in the war after U.S. forces defended the atoll from invasion and sunk four Japanese carriers and one cruiser.
Today, there is no regularly scheduled air service to the island. Tourism was once possible, but suspended long before the current pandemic due to budget cuts. Others have joked the only practical way to get there is to hope for an aircraft diversion.
That was the case for this United crew. After landing in Midway, a team of mechanics was dispatched from Honolulu (HNL). The issue was determined to be a faulty shoulder heater and lower recirculating fan. After deactivating the fans and heaters, the aircraft was ferried to Los Angeles via Honolulu.
The 787 has been fixed and is now back in service.
During the layover, the crew took in both World War II battle sites and nature.
This was not United’s first diversion to Midway Atoll. In June 2014 a 777 with passengers diverted to Midway while traveling enroute from Honolulu to Guam. The island even keeps a set of airstairs handy precisely for these occasions.
image: United States Fish and Wildlife Service