The Aloha Airlines Flight 243 accident

The Crash of Aloha Airlines Flight 243

The crash of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 is one of the most remembered incidents in the airline business. On April 28, 1988, at 1346hrs, a Boeing 737-200, N73711, operated by Aloha Airlines Inc. as flight 243, experienced an explosive decompression and subsequent structural failure at 24,000 feet while flying from Hilo to Honolulu, Hawaii (FAA, 2017).

A Thoroughly Inspected Aircraft

Despite this, the aircraft had completed three round-trip flights from Honolulu before to the disaster. The aircraft had been thoroughly inspected prior to departure on that specific voyage. There were no advisories issued based on the current meteorological conditions, and no weather phenomena occurred along the route (ASN, 2017).

Experienced Crew

The captain, Robert Schornstheimer aged 44 years old, was an experienced pilot who by then had clocked 8,500 flight hours with 6,700 being in Boeing 737s (ASN, 2017). The first officer, a 36-year-old Madeline Tompkins, also had a significant experience in flying 737s. At the time, she had logged 8,000 flights with 3,500 being in the 7373s. There were no any unusual occurrence reported during take-off and ascent. The aircraft is purported to have reached the normal flight altitude of 24,000 ft. i.e. 7,300 m approx. 23 nautical miles south-southeast of Kahului, Maui when a section of its roof on the left side raptured (FAA, 2017). In a short time, the door leading to the cockpit was gone and the roof in the first-class section was total blown out.

The Structural Damage and Decompression

The aircraft experienced instability rolling from left to right and also the controls becoming loose. There were subsequent ripping of the roof exposing a large section of the aircraft to the open as a result of the decompression explosions. Precisely, half of the aircraft's roof was completely torn apart just a few distance from the cockpit. It was estimated that this was about 18 ft. or 5.6 m of the entire aircraft (ASN, 2017). Only one fatality was recorded with eight others suffering serious injuries. At the time of the incident, the first officer was in control of the aircraft but the captain immediately took over after realizing the damage induced.

The Safe Decompression Design

As indicated, the aircraft had no cases of failure or any sort of damage in its entire operations in the Aloha airlines. However, it was ascertained that the plane had some sort of special design though also mostly applied in the aircraft industry. The Boeing 737 particularly had been designed to accommodate a safe decompression whereby a small hole acted as a valve for purposes of keeping the interior pressures from blowing the plane apart (FAA, 2017). This is presumed to have been the origin of its failure and the subsequent damage as any significant blockage leads to total failure.

The Rupture of the Aircraft

As the aircraft gained its normal altitude, forces exerted on the fuselage which presumably had some cracks along the riveted joints or holes just above the windows subsequently opened a 10 inch square hole safe decompression hole within the roof (FAA, 2017). At this moment, pressurized air form the cabin rushed out at approximately 700 mph sucking the flight into the opening; the only reported fatality. This momentarily blocked the escaping air leading to a buildup of pressure enough to rip the aircraft apart. Consequently, the side of the plane blew out and downward as the roof section peeled towards the center (Shapiro, 2001).

The Tragic Aftermath

Parts of windows section folded towards the rear consequently trapping the flight attendant. As the windows folded, the led to the tearing of the rear sections that crashed against the fuselage (Shapiro, 2001). The body of the attendant was never recovered and it is alleged that she may have been consumed by the gashing air that led to the subsequent slamming. Nonetheless, the aircraft under the control of the captain was able to safely land and immediate evacuations carried as one of the engines was on fire.


Aviation Safety Network, (2017). Accident description. Retrieved from

Federal Aviation Administration, (2017). 04/28/88 Aloha Airlines. Retrieved from

Shapiro, W., (2001). The Plane Was Disintegrating. Retrieved from,9171,149181,00.html

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