Saturday, 13 September 2014

You can't plan to visit Midway Atoll Airport

Midway Atoll Airport is more important than you might guess
Where, exactly, IS Midway Atoll Airport?

Midway Atoll, an unincorporated territory of the United States, is situated in the North Pacific Ocean, roughly equidistant between North America and Asia. Longitudinally, the atoll lies almost halfway around the world from Greenwich, UNited Kingdom. Midway Atoll is situated 259 kilometres (161 miles) east of the International Date Line.

Not to be confused with Chicago's Midway Airport (MDW), Midway Atoll Airport (MDY) is located on Sand Island, the largest of the two biggest islands in the atoll. TtIt's not an airport you should expect to ever visit.

MDY airport plays an important role as an emergency diversion point for what is referred to as Extended range Twin Operations, or ETOPS. In layman's terms, ETOPS diversion points provide a safe place to land an aircraft experiencing difficulties while flying over vast oceans.

It is occassionally used, as recently as July 2014.

It happened when a Guam-bound United Airlines Boeing 777 from Honolulu began experiencing electrical problems. The incident began with the smell of electrical smoke. Shortly after, the radar failed and smoke began to fill the cockpit. Thankfully, the pilot was able to make a safe emergency landing at Midway Atoll. The passengers departed, flying back to Hawaii just a few hous later, on a replacement plane [read the story].

In another recent incident, in July 2011, a Delta Boeing 747-400, enroute from Honolulu to Osaka, made an emergency landing at Midway Atoll when the cockpit's windshield cracked. Although the plane hit a couple of birds on its approach, the pilot made a safe landing.While the runway could handle the aircraft, the tiny airport was not equipped to handle a 747, and did not have roll-up stairs that would reach the doors! While the passengers waited onboard for a replacement aircraft to arrive, the resourceful workers quickly built some wooden stairs on top of existing stairs to literally fill the gap. Less than 24 hours later, the airport was quiet again, the passengers arriving at their destination 16 hours late on the replacement plane, and the original plane had also departed [read the full story].
MDY is next to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

More interesting facts:
  • Midway was the focal point of the Battle of Midway, one of the most important battles of the Pacific Campaign in World War II
  • The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 590,991.50 acres (239,165.77 ha) of land and water (mostly water)
  • The refuge and most of its surrounding area are part of the larger PapahĂ„naumokuĂ„kea Marine National Monument
  • Midway Atoll NWR is the world's largest nesting albatross colony  
For more on Midway Atoll Airport (aka Henderson Field), visit our Midway Atoll Airport (MDY) guide.

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