On this day in Aviation History - Aloha 243 incident, 32 years ago

Aloha Airlines Flight 243, a Boeing 737-297 airliner, FAA registration N73711, named Queen Liliuokalani, was enroute from Hilo International Airport (IPO) to Honolulu International Airport (HNL) with a crew of 5 and 89 passengers. The aircraft commander was Captain Robert L. Schornstheimer, an Airline Transport Pilot with 8,500 flight hours, of which 6,700 hours was in the Boeing 737. First Officer Madeline Lynn Tompkins also held an Airline Transport certificate. She had flown 8,000 hours, with 3,500 in the 737. A Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller was on the flight deck as an observer.


First Officer Tompkins made the takeoff at 1:25 p.m. and climbed in visual conditions to Flight Level 240, reaching that altitude at about 1:48 p.m. As the airliner leveled at FL240, a portion of the fuselage tore loose and caused an explosive decompression of the aircraft. The flight deck door blew away and Captain Schornstheimer could see “blue sky where the first-class ceiling had been.” The captain took the controls, deployed the speed brakes and began an immediate descent at 280–290 knots (322–334 miles per hour/519–537 kilometers per hour), with a rate of descent as high as 4,100 feet per minute (20.83 meters per second). He turned toward the nearest airport, Kahalui Airport (OGG) on the island of Maui. First Officer Tompkins handled all communications as well as assisting the captain flying the airplane. Captain Schornstheimer described the flight controls as loose and sluggish.


Descending through 10,000 feet he began to slow the airliner, but below 170 knots, it became less controllable so he maintained that speed for the approach to the runway. At the normal point in the approach, the crew lowered the landing gear but the green light for the nose gear did not illuminate. The manual system was activated. The green light did not come on, but neither did the red light. Captain Schornstheimer felt that it was imperative to get the airliner on the ground, so there was no time to troubleshoot the landing gear.

At this time Flight 243 began to yaw and roll. The number one engine had failed. (Both engines were damaged from ingested debris.) An unsuccessful attempt was made to restart.

The Boeing 737 landed on Runaway 02 at Kahalui Airport at 13:58:45, just over ten minutes since the emergency began. The thrust reverser of the number two engine was used to slow the airplane and when it rolled to a stop, the emergency evacuation was begun.

When the fuselage decompressed, Chief Flight Attendant Clarabelle Ho Lansing had been standing in the aisle at Row 5. She was thrown out of the airplane and fell to the ocean, 24,000 feet below. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Cape Corwin coordinated a three-day search along with Coast Guard and Marine Corps helicopters, airplanes and other ships. Her body was never recovered.


Flight Attendant Jane Sato-Tomita sustained serious head injuries and was unconscious. Flight Attendant Michelle Honda and many passengers were also injured by flying debris and the effects of decompression. Flight Attendant Jane Sato-Tomita sustained serious head injuries and was unconscious. Flight Attendant Michelle Honda and many passengers were also injured by flying debris and the effects of decompression.

Boeing 737-297 N73711 was damaged beyond repair. It was scrapped in place. At the time of the accident, the airframe had accumulated 35,496 hours (TTAF) with 89,680 cycles. The cause of the fuselage failure was fatigue cracking around rivets as a result of the vast number of pressurization/depressurization cycles it had experienced, as well as operation in a salty coastal environment. During the NTSB investigation, a passenger reported having seen a crack in the fuselage when boarding the flight, but did not say anything about it to the crew.

Captain Schornstheimer remained with Aloha Airlines until he retired in 2005. Mimi Tompkins also stayed with Aloha and rose to the rank of captain. When Aloha Airlines ceased operations in 2008 she went to Hawaiian Airlines.




That is…


Great topic once again!

at this point why do they even bother using the door…


Well done wow great explanation of the crash 😁

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This one is definitely one of the scariest, I couldn’t imagine looking 24,000 feet down, all that holding me in is a piece of leather and a piece of metal.

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And this ladies and gentleman is why you wear your seatbelt


I remember Aloha Airlines. I miss flying them.

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Small typo

Hilo is ITO

But great topic!

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Amazing post, I’ve heard about this one and it’s just awesome. And FYI, Hilo is ITO ;D

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This is insane. Incredible job by the pilots here to get the airplane on the ground with an excellent outcome considering the situation (even though it unfortunately didn’t end well for everyone).

Thanks for this well made post!

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