United Airlines Boeing 787 2½ Hour Single-Engine Diversion to Pago Pago, Samoa

Aviation Herald reports United Airlines flight 839, a Boeing 787 bound from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia shut down its right engine en route due to a suspected oil leak. At the time of the incident, the nearest ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operations Performance Standards) qualified airport was Pago Pago in American Samoa, 960 nautical miles (1778 km) to the south of the aircraft. Descending to 20,000 feet (6.9 km) for single-engine operation, the plane flew 2.5 hours on the remaining engine to reach the airport, where it landed without incident.

In the aviation community, the joke is that “ETOPS” stands for “Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim”. In 2014, Boeing received certification for the 787 with to fly routes with as much as 330 minutes (five and a half hours) from the nearest airport in case of a single engine failure, enabling it to fly long over-water routes such as Johannesburg, South Africa to Perth, Australia.


Yep—it’s always Engineering versus P/L.

Mechanical systems fail; I’m always hoping the people rendering decisions of extended EMERGENCY operations are on the aircraft.

Flight is magic. Let’s not forget that.