The 22nd Anniversary of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 Fatigue Failure--April 28, 1988 - An Engineer's Aspect


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The 22nd Anniversary of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 Fatigue Failure--April 28, 1988

According to the Aircraft Accident Report by the National Transportation Safety Board:

"On April 28, 1988, at 1346, a Boeing 737-200, N73711, operated by Aloha Airlines Inc., as flight 243, experienced an explosive decompression and structural failure at 24,000 feet, while en route from Hilo, to Honolulu, Hawaii. Approximately 18 feet of the cabin skin and structure aft of the cabin entrance door and above the passenger floorline separated from the airplane during flight. There were 89 passengers and 6 crewmembers on board. One flight attendant was swept overboard during the decompression and is presumed to have been fatally injured; 7 passengers and 1 flight attendant received serious injuries. The flightcrew performed an emergency descent and landing at Kahului Airport on the Island of Maui."

Image: Aloha Airlines Inc. flight 243. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Initially, there was speculation about a bomb explosion which was quickly disproven. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was fatigue damage which led to failure of a lap joint and the separation of the fuselage upper lobe. Discovered was early production difficulties in the B-737 cold bond lap joint which resulted in low bond durability, corrosion, and premature fatigue cracking.

Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday, May 21, 1988.

The Chronicle-Telegram, Page C-3, Saturday, April 30, 1988.