The incredible story of how Aloha Airlines Flight 243 safely landed after losing a part of its roof mid-flight is one of the most shocking moments in aviation history. On April 28, 1988, a large section of the roof of the Boeing 737-200 jet, carrying 89 passengers and six crew members, tore loose and peeled off during a 40-minute flight over the Pacific Ocean.
The incident occurred when the plane suddenly lost cabin pressure, causing the ceiling to be torn off and a significant portion of the fuselage to follow, leaving passengers exposed to extreme winds at 24,000 feet. In the midst of the chaos, flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing was sucked through the opening, while the rest of the crew and passengers were left terrified, believing that the plane would disintegrate before the pilot could land it.
Despite the dire circumstances, the pilots managed to maneuver the damaged plane down from 24,000 feet and land at Kahului Airport in Maui, with one engine on fire. The captain took control from the first officer and initiated an emergency descent, successfully landing the aircraft thirteen minutes after the incident, as confirmed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Emergency personnel on the ground were astonished as they witnessed the damaged plane approaching. Miraculously, all but one person survived the incident. Out of the 95 people on board, there was one fatality and eight serious injuries. Ms. Lansing, the air hostess, was the only casualty, and her body was never found.
According to a report from the US National Transportation Safety Board, the plane experienced an explosive decompression and structural failure, which also led to the failure of the left engine. The Federal Aviation Administration revealed that a passenger had noticed a crack in the fuselage before boarding but failed to inform the crew.
Passenger Eric Becklin, who was seated at the back of the aircraft, recounted the terrifying experience, stating, “All of a sudden, I heard a loud noise, a bang, but not an explosion, and felt a strong pressure change. I looked up front and saw the front of the top left of the airplane disintegrating, just going apart, pieces of it flying away. It started with a hole about a yard wide, and it just kept coming apart.”
The story of how Aloha Airlines Flight 243 landed safely despite the loss of its roof remains a testament to the skills and composure of the pilots involved. It also prompted significant changes and improvements in the aviation industry to ensure the safety of passengers and crew in similar situations.