23 minutes after what seemed to be a normal takeoff from Hilo airport part of the fuselage ruptured and the resulting decompression tore an entire section off the top of the aircraft, exposing passengers and crew to the extreme conditions of traveling at hundreds of miles per hour 24,000 feet in the air. Chief flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing, standing in the aisle near the front of the plane collecting drink cups from passengers, was sucked out of the opening and vanished into thin air. Several other passengers and crew members were seriously injured by flying debris but stayed on board and the captain managed to maintain control and bring the crippled aircraft in for an emergency landing 10 minutes later at nearby Kahului's small airport.
The accident was determined to be the result of metal fatigue from tens of thousands of compression/decompression cycles (takeoffs and landings), combined with corrosion caused by the tropical environment in which Aloha operated its planes. Stricter maintenance guidelines were enacted by the government in response to the accident but the public would never again take for granted that older airplanes were necessarily safe to fly in.
|Boeing's "Maxi-view" 737. Survivors gather near crippled flight 243 after emergency landing April 29, 1988|