The miracle story of how Aloha Airlines Flight 243 landed safely despite losing a part of its roof is one of the most incredible, yet shocking moments in aviation history. On April 28, 1988, a huge section of the roof of an Aloha Airlines jet, carrying 89 passengers and six crew tore loose and peeled off mid-flight. What resulted after that was pure horror and a moment that transformed the aviation industry forever.
According to the Washington Post, the twin-engine, 110-seat Boeing 737-200 jet was halfway into a 40-minute flight when it suddenly lost cabin pressure. The ceiling of the Boeing 737 was torn off, and a large section of its fuselage then followed, exposing passengers to the extreme winds at 24,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean.
Disaster struck when flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing, who was serving the passengers, was sucked through the opening. The rest of the crew and passengers were left screaming in horror and were convinced that the plane ”was going to fall apart before the pilot could land it.”
See pictures here:
#OTD in 1988: Aloha Airlines Flight 243, a B-737 with 95 aboard, has a severe explosive decompression over Hawaii (US). Part of the passenger cabin rips open, killing one steward who is ejected from the aircraft. Despite significant damage, crew was able to land jet safely. pic.twitter.com/hfKOxYaMcV
— Air Safety #OTD by Francisco Cunha (@OnDisasters) April 27, 2022
It seems unthinkable, but the pilots somehow maneuvered the damaged plane down from 24,000 feet and landed with an engine on fire at Kahului Airport. The captain took over the controls from the first officer and began an emergency descent to Maui, successfully landing there thirteen minutes after the incident, as per the Federal Aviation Administration.
Emergency personnel on the ground could not believe what they were seeing as the damaged plane approached.
Let’s take a moment to remember Aloha Airlines Flight 243.
On April 28th 1988 the roof ripped off the Boeing 737 at 24,000 ft. The chief flight attendant (the only fatality) fell from the plane and debris struck the tail section. Amazingly the pilot still managed to land safely… pic.twitter.com/TAXzlW6KNo
— Mothra P.I. (@Hardywolf359) November 17, 2022
Miraculously, every other person on board survived the incident. Of the 95 people onboard, there was one death and eight serious injuries. The air hostess was the only fatality, with all passengers seated and belted at the time. Notably, Ms Lansing’s body has never been found.
Clarabelle Lansing, air stewardess, 28 April 1988
Sucked out of the airplane she was working in when part of the fuselage suddenly exploded during Aloha Airlines Flight 243. She was the only fatality of the incident, and her body was never found. pic.twitter.com/oYOgstti2K
— Peppermint Goat (@ShuckMyBhauls) June 26, 2019
According to a US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report, the plane experienced an ”explosive decompression and structural failure” which also caused the left engine to fail. The Federal Aviation Administration also stated that a passenger noticed a crack in the airplane fuselage during boarding, but she did not tell the crew before takeoff.
”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,” passenger Eric Becklin, who was sitting at the back of the aircraft, told The Washington Post.