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

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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:

I’m glad I’m not on @delta flight #DL128 today. Flying from PEK to SEA today, they diverted to remote Shemya, Alaska. 2 days ago, that island was reporting 65 mph wind gusts.

— Jonathan Kealing (@JKealing) December 24, 2018

Others had more global concerns:

Asking for the children of the world. @Delta can confirm the reports are wrong that flight #DL128 that diverted to Shemya(SYA) this morning ingested in the engine, a figure flying in a red coat and about a dozen reindeer?

— David S (@PDXDave2) December 25, 2018

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.

Finally on the way to Seattle after spending the last 12 hours on an island in the middle of Pacific North Pole. Wish I hadn’t left PEK.

— Prakhar Khanduja (@prakharkhanduja) December 25, 2018

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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