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American Airlines accidentally flies the wrong plane to Hawaii

American Airlines accidentally flew a plane last month that did not have the authorization to fly long distances over water.
/ Source: TODAY

An American Airlines flight full of passengers was en route to Hawaii from Los Angeles last month when the airline realized there was a problem — the plane was not authorized to fly long distances over water.

Somehow the wrong type of plane, an Airbus A321S aircraft, was allowed to leave the runway despite not having the certification to fly over the Pacific. American Airlines immediately notified the Federal Aviation Administration and decided to complete the flight, which ended with a safe landing in Hawaii on Aug. 31.

The mix-up, which was first reported by transportation blogger Brian Sumers, resulted in flying a plane that didn't have a specific "ETOPS" certification that requires the plane to carry extra medical oxygen and fire suppression equipment. The plane was flown safely back from Honolulu to Los Angeles with just a crew on board and no passengers.

"If you're flying from L.A. to Honolulu, do you want to know that in the middle of your flight?" Matt Lauer asked on TODAY Monday to resounding "nos" as the anchors discussed the story. "The pilot realizing that has to think 'whoops.'"

The plane that should have made the trip was an Airbus A321H, which has the same equipment as the Airbus A321S except that it also has the ETOPS certification. The mistake was a violation of federal guidelines, as FAA regulations mandate that planes flying over water an hour from any place to land need to have the extra medical and fire equipment required by an ETOPS certification.

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.