Aircraft Experts Modify Plane to Rescue Travelers Stranded on Pacific Island

They may not exactly be castaways, but 12 visiting conservatory trustees from Louisiana on Wednesday were stuck on a remote tropical island in the Pacific Ocean, KITV reported.

The trustees were due to leave Palmyra Island, about 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii, on Saturday. But the only plane that flies directly to the island, owned by the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii and protected as a national wildlife refuge, needs an engine replaced.

The stranded visitors will have to wait for Pacific Air Charters at Honolulu International Airport to fit a twin-engine Cessna plane with a 75-gallon fuel tank to get the plane to Christmas Island, 300 miles off Palmyra, KITV reported.

The plane then will ferry the trustees off Palmyra Island in two trips. Pilot mechanic Rob Szabo said the mission could be finished by Thursday.

"Anytime you modify an aircraft you have to do a lot of paperwork, and it has to be approved by the FAA — a lot of I's to dot and T's to cross," Szabo told KITV.

Palmyra has electricity, cabins and supplies, due to its hosting an international research outpost; however, Nature Conservancy Director Suzanne Case said it still is important to get the visitors off as soon as possible.

"They've been there a week and it's time to get off, and they have commitments to move on to," Case told KITV. "They are taking it very well. They know that we are moving forward in a safe and calculating way to find an alternative aircraft to transport them."

Palmyra has a coral runway, which requires a special plane, especially with Federal Aviation Administration rules, KITV reported.

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