UPDATE 8:00 P.M. | A Hawaiian Airlines representative said a flight carrying 203 passengers turned back toward Seattle because there was a low-quantity indication from one of three redundant hydraulic systems on the B767-300. Once grounded, mechanics changed a pump and that fixed the problem, said spokesman Keoni Wagner. The airline offered passengers a $100 travel credit for the inconvenience.
A Hawaiian Airlines flight almost halfway to its Maui destination turned around and headed back to Seattle today. Passengers were reportedly told the plane had mechanical problems. Calls to Hawaiian Airlines about any malfunction were not immediately returned.
Flight 29 left Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at about 10:21 and landed without problems at around 3 p.m., according to airport spokesman Perry Cooper.
Former Seattleite, now Kihei resident Laurie Varner noticed the odd turn of events while tracking the flight online. She was supposed to pick up a friend around 1:15 p.m. today and then got worried about why the flight was turning back toward Seattle.
“I was sitting here waiting for a my friend seeing when to pick him up and then saw the flight turn back around,” Varner said. “And Hawaiian Airlines wouldn’t give me a reason why.”
Her friend texted her soon after getting off the plane, though, to let her know they returned without any problems on the way back, she said.
Cooper said no emergency landing happened and that flight returns like that — especially from an airport with so many departing flights — “happen every once in a while.” The airport did not have immediate statistics on how often, though.
“If something gives them an alert signal, they don’t want to continue flying across an ocean,” Cooper said. “The No. 1 priority is safety. If they get an alert, they’re going to prefer returning to the closest airport.”
The flight is scheduled to depart for Maui again this evening at 6:35 p.m.