United flight to New Zealand makes emergency landing in Hawaii after pilot falls ill

A United Airlines flight from San Francisco to New Zealand made an emergency landing in Honolulu early Friday after a pilot fell ill.

United flight 917 took off from San Francisco International Airport Thursday just before midnight, bound for Auckland. Halfway into the 13-hour flight, the Boeing 777 landed in Honolulu, according to flight tracker FlightAware. It was 3 a.m. local time.

The plane, which was staffed with four pilots, landed without issue and taxied to the gate, United spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said.

Gibbs said passengers were told the plane was diverting for a medical issue. She declined to disclose the pilot’s medical issue.

She said United is providing meal vouchers for the 247 passengers. They are expected to depart for Auckland later today following mandated rest for the flight crew, she said.

In 2013, a United pilot had a heart attack during a flight from Houston to Seattle, and the flight was diverted to Boise. An off-duty pilot helped land the plane. The stricken pilot later died.

In 2015, an American Airlines pilot died on a red-eye flight from Phoenix to Boston. The Federal Aviation Administration said at the time that a pilot’s death in mid-air is a rarity.

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