Thirty years ago, on 28 April 1988, Aloha Airlines flight 243 from Hilo to Honolulu had just reached its cruising altitude of 24,000 (FL240) when it experienced an explosive decompression and structural failure. Approximately 18 feet from the cabin skin and structure aft of the cabin entrance door and above the passenger floor line separated from the airplane. Looking back through where the cockpit door had been, the pilots saw only blue sky where the ceiling of the first-class cabin should have been.
Despite the extreme damage to their Boeing 737-297, Captain Robert Schornstheimer and First Officer Mimi Tompkins safely landed the aircraft on Maui. One flight attendant standing in the first class section, Clarabelle Lansing, was ejected from the aircraft and presumed to have been killed. The other five crewmembers and 89 passengers survived, though 65 of the 94 survivors were injured, eight seriously.
The probable cause of the accident from the NTSB's report:
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the Aloha Airlines maintenance program to detect the presence of significant disbonding and fatigue damage which ultimately led to failure of the lap joint a S-10L and the separation of the fuselage upper lobe. Contributing to the accident were the failure of Aloha Airlines management to supervise properly its maintenance force; the failure of the FAA to require Airworthiness Directive 87-21-08 inspection of all the lap joints proposed by Boeing Alert Service Bulletin SB 737-53A1039; and the lack of a complete terminating action (neither generated by Boeing nor required by the FAA) after the discovery of early production difficulties in the B-737 cold bond lap joint which resulted in low bond durability, corrosion, and premature fatigue cracking.
The partial ejection of a passenger from another Boeing 737 that occurred 11 days ago (Southwest 1380) reminded many people of the Aloha accident, though the causes were quite different.
Today's Featured Map illustrates the approxmate path of flight 243, with the planned flight to Honolulu in yellow and the actual flight and diversion in red. (The NTSB report does not include details of the flight path so this map does not show the exact path.)
Information on this site may not be accurate or current and is not valid for flight planning or navigation. No warranty of fitness for any purpose is made or implied. Flight planning and navigation should only be done using official charts.
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Karl L. Swartz.
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