Falling to Pieces: The near crash of Aloha Airlines flight 243

Passengers evacuate Aloha Airlines flight 243 after its successful emergency landing on Maui. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
A period advertisement for Aloha Airlines emphasizes its punctuality. (Aloha Airlines)
N73711, the aircraft involved in the accident, seen here in 1974. (Bob Polaneczky)
The route of Aloha Airlines flight 243 — Hilo-Honolulu. (Google + own work)
The crew of flight 243. From left to right, Captain Bob Schornstheimer, First Officer Mimi Tompkins, flight attendants Jane Sato-Tomita and Michelle Honda; inset: CB Lansing. (Maui 24/7 and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
This CGI animation produced for the TV show “Mayday” depicts the moment of the fuselage failure. (Mayday s3e01, “Hanging by a Thread.”)
This 1990 movie poster attempted to capture visually what it was like to be on board the plane. (IMDB)
Captain Bob Schornstheimer in his native habitat. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
This diagram shows the approximate extent of the missing fuselage section. (NTSB)
In this photo taken by one of the first passengers to evacuate, people can still be seen in their seats in the damaged area. FO Tompkins is standing in the doorway; Captain Schornstheimer is near row 1. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Passengers lie on the grass tending to each others’ injuries following the evacuation. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Once all the passengers had been evacuated, the seats were stripped out of the first class section to more easily assess the damage. (Maui News)
This local newspaper managed to come up with an extremely memorable headline, the kind reporters usually only dream about. (Maui News)
How the overlapping skin sections were designed before and after frame #291. Aloha Airlines used the method on the left. (NTSB)
How cracks formed in the rivets on the 737 lap joints. (NTSB)
An investigator examines the damage to N73711. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
B-2603, the aircraft involved in the Far Eastern Air Transport crash in 1981. (Petr Popelar)
How an eddy current inspection works. (Olympus IMS)
One piece of the fuselage actually became lodged in the leading edge of the right wing. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
How tear straps were embedded into the early 737 fuselage. (NTSB)
On this Southwest Boeing 737, it is possible to see tear straps working correctly. After a fuselage failure, the breach was redirected, forming a flap and allowing for a more controlled decompression, and no one was seriously injured. (NTSB)
Inside flight 243’s ravaged cabin. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
An investigator speaks to reporters in front of the wrecked 737. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Investigators examine the left side of N73711. (FAA)
Inspectors examine N73712, which was also scrapped due to extensive cracking. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
N73711 is towed off the runway for the last time. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Investigators discuss the case in front of the stripped-out plane. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
The open section was eventually covered with a tarp to keep out the rain before the plane was sent to the scrapyard. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
The scale of the damage is really quite difficult to comprehend. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
N73711 sits alone on the apron. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
N73711 in the process of being torn up for scrap. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
Saying goodbye to “Queen Liliuokalani.” (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)



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Admiral Cloudberg

Admiral Cloudberg


Analyzer of plane crashes and author of upcoming book (eventually™). Contact me via @Admiral_Cloudberg on Reddit or by email at kylanddempsey@gmail.com.