Fly to Hawaii Safely.

I’m starting to plan my next trip and—no surprise—there’s a fair amount of train travel involved onceI I get to the Mainland.

Of course any traveling we do that takes us beyond these lovely islands requires a commercial jet flight. The closest destination is Los Angeles in southern California and it’s a five-hour flight.

In fact, when you fly to Hawaii from L.A. or San Francisco or Seattle or any of the other mainland U.S. cities offering non-stops to Hawaii, you’re on the longest commercial over-water flight in the world for which there is no alternate landing site!

PanAm makes a safe water landing en route to the U.S. mainland from Honolulu in 1956.

There have been perhaps a half dozen incidents of planes having to ditch on flights to Hawaii from the West Coast, but all have been either military or privately-owned aircraft and as far as I know, all these incidents were the result of some mechanical issue.

In years prior to 1959—that’s when the airlines began flying passenger jets to the islands—there had been two incidents: one when a commercial jet had been forced to ditch in the Pacific Ocean, another when, tragically, there were no survivors. Both incidents involved a Pan American Stratocruiser built by Boeing.

The first incident was in 1956. PanAm flight 6, en route to California from Honolulu, developed engine trouble in two of its four engines. When the pilot was certain that they could not make landfall, he steered the aircraft to a Coast Guard ship permanently stationed near the halfway mark to provide a relaying service for radio messages between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. 

The PanAm pilot, blessed with relatively calm seas, made a textbook water landing (as you can see in the photo above) and all passengers and crew survived.

A year later, PanAm flight 7, also a Boeing Stratocruiser westbound to Honolulu, was lost with no survivors. After extensive hearings and several theories, including one that the plane had been sabotaged, the explanation as to the exact cause of flight 7s disappearance is still inconclusive.

Today, of course, all commercial flights to and from the Hawaiian Islands are modern jet aircraft and considering the number of flights to and from Hawaii and the U.S. mainland every day, their collective safety record is certainly a testimony to the quality and reliability of that equipment.