In the Aloha incident, Aloha Airlines flight 243 took off on a regularly scheduled flight departing Hilo and arriving in Honolulu airport. Aloha flight 243 was a Boeing 737 that had suffered from metal fatigue and flown well over the intended takeoff-landing hours. (Stoller, 2001) Flight 243 experienced an explosive decompression and structure failure at flight level 240. An 18 ft. long section of ceiling area of the fuselage from the forward passenger cabin had separated from the flight deck door to the front of the wing. The opening extended from the left side of the cabin floor level to the right side window level.
A flight attendant who was standing in the aisle was ejected out of the aircraft. No passengers were killed and flight 243 made a successful emergency landing in Kahului, Hawaii. The metal fatigues on an older aircraft lead to regulatory changes. The airplane was determined damaged beyond repair. Thursday, April 28, 1988 at (Airsafe, 2008) 0510 Captain Robert Schornstheimer completed pre departure duties in dispatch. The captain then proceeded to the airplane. At 0500 the copilot checked in to Aloha Airlines Operations facility. Filled out operation’s paperwork and completed a preflight inspection.
The maintenance log was signed and with no discrepancies. The copilot then prepared flight deck for portion of preflight. In predawn darkness, the exterior visual inspection had also found nothing unusual. At 1100 a copilot change was scheduled. Flight crew visual exterior inspections between flights were not required by FAA. (Hawaii, 1997) Aloha flight 243 was an inter-island flight. The previous crew flew three round trip flights starting from Honolulu to Hilo, Maui and Kaual. All six flights reported uneventful. All airplane systems performed normal.
Onboard the Boeing 737-297 were two pilots, three flight attendants, one FAA traffic controller (in flight deck observer seat), and 89 passengers. The flight had taken place in visual meteorological conditions with no advisories for significant meteorological information (SIGMET), or airman’s meteorological information (AIRMET). At 1325, flight 243 took off. The copilot, in control of the aircraft, reported no unusual occurrence during the take off. When the airplane leveled out at 24,000 feet the copilot’s head was jerked backward and both pilots heard a “clap” or “whooshing” sound along with wind noises behind them.
The captain took over the controls and reported the airplane attitude as rolling slightly left and right with loose controls. Both pilots donned their oxygen masks because of decompression. The passenger oxygen mask switch was actuated as the plane began emergency decent. A rate of descent of 4,100 feet per minute was observed by the copilot at that time. The CVR microphones in the pilots’ oxygen masks recorded statements made by captain, copilot, flight observer, and Maui tower. Communication with Maui tower was garbled.
At 1348, Maui tower was able to receive reception, loud and clear, as soon as the plane reached the south-south east side of Makena and descended out of 13,000 feet. Written in The Black Box the following conversation has been documented according to (MacPherson, 157) “COPILOT: Center, Aloha Two forty-three. We’re going down…Request lower [altitude]. Center, Aloha Two forty-three. Center, Aloha Two forty-three. Maui Approach, Aloha Two forty-three. Maui Tower, Aloha Two forty-three. Maui Tower, Aloha Two forty-three. We’re inbound for a landing. Maui Tower, Aloha Two forty-three.
MAUI TOWER: [Flight] callin’ Tower, say again. COPILOT: Maui Tower, Aloha Two forty-three, we’re inbound for landing. We’re just, ah, west of Makena…just to the east of Makena, descending out of thirteen [13,000 feet], and we have rapid depr- We are unpressurized. Declaring an emergency…” The pilots had no communication with the flight attendants and informed tower of rapid decompression plus the need for emergency equipment on the ground. (MacPherson, 159) “CAPTAIN: We really can’t communicate with the flight attendants, bur we’ll need trucks, and we’ll need, ah, air stairs from Aloha.
COPILOT: All right. [To Tower] Maui Tower, Two forty-three can you hear me on Tower? TOWER: Aloha Two forty-three, I hear you loud and clear. Go ahead. COPILOT: Ah, we’re gonna need assistance. We cannot communicate with the flight attendants. Ah, we’ll need assistance for the passengers when we land… TOWER: Okay, I understand you’re gonna need an ambulance. Is that correct? COPILOT: Affirmative. ” As the plane slowed down for approach at 10,000 feet mean sea level, the captain retracted speed brakes, removed oxygen mask and began to turn the airplane towards Maui’s runway 02 at 210 knots.
He gave the command to lower flaps to five; flaps were initially set at one. The captain attempted to extend the flaps further but the plane became less controllable. He gave command to lower landing gear at normal point in approach pattern. Main gear was indicated “down and locked”. Nose gear position indicator light did not illuminate. The manual nose gear extension was selected still no green light illuminated, nor the red landing gear unsafe indicator light. No visual was conducted due to occupied jump seat and need for an immediate landing. At 1355, the copilot advised tower of no nose gear.
The tower responded with a confirmed visual of nose gear. (MacPherson, 160) “COPILOT: Okay, be advised. We have no nose gear. We are landing without nose gear. TOWER: Okay. If you need any other assistance, advise… COPILOT: We’ll need all the [emergency] equipment you’ve got. [To captain] Is it easier to control with the flaps up? CAPTAIN: Yea. Put ‘em at five. Can you give me a Vee speed for flaps-five landing? The copilot can’t find the Vee speed. COPILOT: Do you want the flaps down as we land? CAPTAIN: Yea, after we touch down. COPILOT: Okay. The captain and copilot discuss the speeds for landing.
TOWER: Aloha, Two forty-three, just for your information. The gear appears down. Gear appears down. ” Just after the nose gear incident, flying at the rate of 170 to 200 knots, the captain noticed a yawing motion and determined the number one (left) engine failed. He attempted to start the engine with no success. While able to make a normal touch down the captain noticed the aircraft shaking, rocking slightly and springy. Flight 243 landed in Kahului, Maui at 1358. Injuries reported on flight 243 as follow: one crew fatality, one crew and 7 passengers suffered serious injuries, 57 passengers suffered minor injuries.
The rest of the crew and passengers reported no injuries. The senior flight attendant was the one and only fatality onboard flight 243. The location of this flight attendant plays a role in the explosive decompression that flight 243 had experienced. Studies and theories have been researched on the safe decompression design of Boeing 737, 200 series. The safe decompression design is to prevent the aircraft from splitting apart by allowing a small hole in the exterior of the plane to open and stop an increase of interior pressure that could split the plane. The safe decompression location on the aircraft can affect the passengers and crew.
One man onboard flight 243, Matt Austin, is a Boiler Engineer by trade. He has long studied the cause for the explosive decompression and came up with his own educated theory. Also, the Boeing 737 of Aloha Flight 243 was made in 1969 and had accumulated 89,680 flights. The structurally degraded fuselage was designed to fly 75,000 flights. (Aviation accident brief, 1990) The National Transportation Safety Board brief determines the probable cause of incident to fuselage fatigue, improper maintenance inspection, inadequate surveillance, inadequate management, and inadequate airframe from manufacturer.
Nothing on the NTSB report does the safe decompression hole help define obvious explosive decompression. According to Matt Austin (Disastercity, N. D. ) the concept called “safe decompression” built into the Boeing 737 design has flaws. The aircraft exterior crack along the rivet holes above the window will create a 10 in. square safe decompression hole in roof. This concept says that regular detailed inspection of the fuselage is not required because failure of any part will be “damage obvious or malfunction evident”; the damage will be obviously noticeable before compromising the structural integrity of the fuselage in flight.
In the Aloha incident, the senior flight attendant was reported standing in row five and immediately swept out of the cabin through a hole in the left side of fuselage. As soon as the 10 in. by 10 in. hole blew, air began to rush out from the pressurized cabin at a rate of about 700 mph. The flight attendant was sucked into the opening and plugged the hole, causing a fluid hammer effect. This stopped the flow of air for a few ten-thousandths of a second and the pressure built up to hundreds of pounds per square inch just enough to cause the fuselage to rip apart.
The left side of the plane blew downward and the center peeled upward. A photo reveals a halo like blood stain on the exterior of the aircraft. The blood stain is to be of the flight attendants skull. Flight 243 had many complications once the explosive decompression occurred in mid flight. The outstanding composure exuded by the captain and copilot, as proven by the excerpts from The Black Box, safely brought the passengers to the ground. Unfortunately, the loss of the senior flight attendant was violent. I believe the fluid hammer effect, described by Matt Austin, may have very well caused the fuselage to open up like it did.
In conclusion, the Boeing 737 still is equipped with the “safe decompression” feature that hasn’t been proven to have caused a mishap in flight. Resources Airsafe. com. (2009). Fatal events since 1970 for aloha airlines and since 1984 aloha island air. Retrieved on February 13, 2009 From: http://airsafe. com/events/airlines/aloha. htm Aviation accident brief. (1990, June 25). DCA88MA054. Washington, DC: National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved on July 13, 2008 From: htt://ntsb. gov/NTSB/brief. asp? ev_id2000123x25439&key=1 Disastercity. (N. D. ).
Boeing’s “safe decompression” design philosophy and the aloha flight243 accident. Retrieved on February 13, 2009 From: http://disastercity. info/ghost/sfdecomp/ Hawaiionline. (1997). Aloha flight 243. Retrieved on February 13, 2009 From: http://aloha. net/~icarus/index. htm MacPherson, M. (1998). The black box. New York, NY: William Marrow and Company Inc. Stoller, G. (2001, Jan 18). Engineering fears repeat of 1988 aloha jet incident. Honolulu advertiser. Retrieved on February 13, 2009 From: http://the. honoluluadvertiser. com/2001/jan/18/118localnews1. html