On Wednesday, 12 October at 38,000 feet over the North Pacific Ocean, American Airlines flight 288 developed an issue with its number 2 engine, the General Electric GEnx-1B engine on the right hand side of the aircraft. The crew decided the best course of action was to divert the aircraft, but over the Pacific, options were limited. The nearest suitable runway was Cold Bay, Alaska, a town of just over 100 people. Even before the flight had landed in Cold Bay, American Airlines had begun a carefully coordinated scramble to get 100 passengers to their destination and their 787 back in the air.

Coordination is Key

Mapping AA288’s diversion and how AA recovered (click to enlarge)
Mapping AA288’s diversion and how AA recovered (click to enlarge)

Less than two hours after AA288 landed in Cold Bay and doubled the town’s population, a Tech Ops team departed from Seattle to assess the aircraft and begin any necessary repairs. At almost the same, American’s code share partner Alaska Airlines sent a 737 from Anchorage to retrieve the passengers and most of the crew. Three of the four pilots aboard AA288 stayed with the aircraft to fly it home upon repair.

A few hours later, an American 757 departed Dallas-Ft Worth for Anchorage to bring the passengers to their original destination in Chicago. The passengers and crew boarded the Alaska Airlines 737 and departed for Anchorage, leaving the pilots and airport personnel to enjoy Cold Bay. Shortly after the passengers and crew left the Tech Ops team arrived and began their assessment of the aircraft.

The Tech Ops team determined that a part was needed for the number 2 engine and a chartered flight from Cincinnati departed for Cold Bay carrying GE Aviation personnel and the necessary part.

Passengers spent the night in Anchorage and departed early the next morning for Chicago aboard AA9259. The part for N812AA’s engine arrived in Cold Bay in the late afternoon and four hours later the aircraft was on its way to Dallas as AA9643 for further inspection.

Later that day, N812AA was back in revenue service to Shanghai.

The Timeline

FlightOriginDeparture TimeDestinationArrival Time
AA288 (N812AA)Shanghai (PVG)12 Oct | 09:05DIVERT: Cold Bay (CDB)12 Oct | 17:42
AA Tech OpsSeattle (SEA)13 Oct | 00:56Cold Bay (CDB)13 Oct | 05:40
AS9804 (N760AS)Anchorage (ANC)13 Oct | 00:59Cold Bay (CDB)13 Oct | 02:18
AA9655 (N677AN)Dallas-Ft Worth (DFW)13 Oct | 02:04Anchorage (ANC)13 Oct | 08:30
AS9660 (N760AS)Cold Bay (CDB)13 Oct | 04:00Anchorage (ANC)13 Oct | 05:34
GE Parts and EngineersCincinnati (CVG)13 Oct | 15:23Cold Bay (CDB)14 Oct | 00:33
AA9259 (N677AN)Anchorage (ANC)13 Oct | 20:15Chicago (ORD)14 Oct | 02:22
AA9643 (N812AA)Cold Bay (CDB)14 Oct | 04:06Dallas-Ft Worth (DFW)14 Oct | 10:16

Note: all times UTC


American Airlines put together a behind the scenes look at the diversion recovery and how the passengers and crew spent their time in Cold Bay. We’ve included the relevant sections of the newsletter below.


Featured image by ernest350

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