Little Bits of History

Scully’s Predecessor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 28, 2012

Aloha Airlines Flight 243 after landing

April 28, 1988: Aloha Airlines Flight 243 takes off from Hilo International Airport with Honolulu as its destination. The aircraft, called Queen Liliuokalani with registration number N737311, left the airport at 1:25 Hawaii-Aleutian time zone. There were 90 passengers and five crew members aboard the Boeing 737-297 plane. The plane was used for short hops between the islands and had made 80,090 flight cycles during the 19 years it had been in use. The pre-flight was uneventful and the plane took off without incident.

By 1:48 the routine flight altitude of 24,000 feet had been reached. The flight was approximately 27 miles south-southeast of Kahului on the island of Maui. Suddenly, a small portion of the left side of the roof ruptured. This allowed for an explosive decompression which tore off the top half of the roof from just behind the cockpit to the fore-wing area. Part of the original design of the 737 was a controlled breakaway zone to alleviate stress in cases of decompression. The age and frequent flight status of the plane created a situation where the rivets had rusted and corroded causing the entire roof to disappear into thin air.

At the time of the event, First Officer Madeline Tompkins’s head was pulled backwards and she could see insulation flying about the cabin. Captain Robert Schornstheimer looked back and saw blue sky where the first class roof should have been. Tompkins called Air Traffic Control with a mayday. Clarabelle Lansing, chief flight attendant, was collecting cups from passengers and was sucked through the hole and died – the only fatality – while Michelle Honda, standing father back in the plane, was thrown to the floor.

Captain Schornstheimer was able to gain control of the plane, no longer aerodynamically stable. He was to land at Kahului Airport, using runway 2. The electrical wiring was severed with the decompression and it was unknown whether the landing gear had been able to descend and lock into place. At 1:58 PM the plane was brought safely to ground and the emergency evacuation slides were activated. There were 65 injuries reported, eight of them serious. Touring vans were used to transport the injured to the local hospital since the island had only two ambulances at the time. The probable cause of the event was metal fatigue.

Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo. – Al Gore

Before marriage, many couples are very much like people rushing to catch an airplane; once aboard, they turn into passengers. They just sit there. – Paul Getty

I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit. – Chuck Yeager

If you take one rivet out of an airplane, it will be all right, it’ll keep flying. You take another rivet out of the airplane and it still flies. So what the heck, let’s take more rivets out of the airplane, and sooner or later, the airplane drops from the sky. – Ted Danson

Also on this day:

A Voyage to the South Sea – In 1789 the Mutiny on the Bounty takes place.
Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl set sail.
Exposed! – In 1967, Expo 67 opened in Canada.