Grounded flight reaches
Texas destination safely

A Continental Airlines jet grounded at remote Midway Atoll for nearly 24 hours because of an oil pressure problem arrived at its Houston destination yesterday.

The Boeing 777 carrying 294 people was en route from Tokyo when it was forced to land at Midway's Sand Island airfield early Monday. It took off the next morning and arrived in Texas at 3:29 p.m. local time (11:29 a.m. HST).

Continental spokesman David Messing said the plane was diverted because of the loss of oil pressure in one of the plane's engines. Continental had to fly maintenance workers and parts from Honolulu to Midway to fix the problem.

Meanwhile, passengers were allowed off the plane and had the rare opportunity to tour the island, which is a National Wildlife Refuge operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The passengers ate in the old diner and spent time in the island's only theater and pub. Some people slept in the old military barracks, wildlife service spokeswoman Barbara Maxfield said.

Midway is the site of a key U.S. naval victory in World War II. It is now home to just 35 residents and thousands of seafaring birds and other wildlife.

Midway's airfield, which is in danger of being shut down because of lack of funding, is the only airstrip in the area. The airfield at Wake Island is closed because it is being resurfaced. Johnston Atoll's airfield was permanently closed last month, Maxfield said.

If the Midway facility had been closed, the jet would probably have had to have turn back to Japan or fly about 1,200 miles to Honolulu, she said.


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