FILE PHOTO / APRIL 1988
The History Channel will air "Secrets of the Black Box: Aloha Flight 243," a documentary on Hawaii's worst air accident in which a Boeing 737 lost the forward upper half of its fuselage in-flight, tonight at 7. One life was lost when a flight attendant was blown from the aircraft.
'243' is horrific Aloha flight story
"Secrets of the Black Box: Aloha Flight 243"
Airs at 7 tonight on the History Channel
ON April 28, 1988, an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-297 flying from Hilo to Honolulu was forced to make an emergency landing at Kahului Airport after about one-third of the aircraft was torn away during flight. It was Hawaii's worst air accident.
What happened, how the fuselage was dislodged and the bravery and skill of the exceptional flight crew is featured in the most extensive, moment-by-moment reporting of the incident, the History Channel's hourlong "Secrets of the Black Box: Aloha Flight 243," airing tonight.
The jet, which was carrying 89 passengers and six crew, experienced rapid decompression when an 18-foot forward section of the roof and sides were torn from the fuselage. Flight attendant "C.B." Lansing was sucked out of the airplane and died; another 65 were injured, some suffering massive head wounds.
Writer/producer Lee Fulkerson interviews National Transportation and Safety Board personnel who investigated the incident, as well as several passengers, their relatives, aerospace and investigative journalists. Through dramatic reenactment and footage of the disabled aircraft, Fulkerson translates cold, hard facts into human emotions.
The narrator is former NTSB investigator Greg Feith. Aloha Airlines, through Stephanie Ackerman and Stu Glauberman, assisted the production.
Unfortunately, pilot Robert Shornstheimer, co-pilot Madeline "Mimi" Tompkins, and flight attendants Michelle Honda and Jane Sato-Tomita did not participate.
Honda, who was standing near rows 15 and 16, was thrown violently to the floor during the decompression. Despite her injuries, we learn, she was able to crawl up and down the aisle, assisting and calming the terrified passengers.
Sato-Tomita, who was at the front of the plane, was seriously injured by flying debris and was thrown to the floor. Passengers held onto her during the descent into Maui.
A full-scale investigation launched by the NTSB concluded that the accident was caused by metal fatigue and stress fractures exacerbated by crevice corrosion. The age of the aircraft became a key issue, as the aircraft was 19 years old and had undergone a remarkable number of takeoff-landing cycles.
Consequently, all major U.S. air carriers retired their oldest aircraft, and additional maintenance checks are performed on planes as they age.
Unfortunately, a female passenger who boarded Flight 243 in Hilo noticed a small crack in the fuselage near the front passenger door, but didn't notify the crew. She is not interviewed or identified in the program.
If there's a failing in this show, it's that these essential people are missing and no explanation is given as to why they did not make themselves available. Investigative journalists generally make this known.
But perhaps the greatest value of "Secrets of the Black Box" is that finally this black mark on Hawaii's aviation history is understandable to non-engineers -- and true heroism is shown in all its unselfish glory.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
» A portion of a review of the television show "Secrets of the Black Box: Aloha Flight 243" was taken verbatim from the Web site reference.com. The material was originally published in the online encyclopedia wikipedia.com. The article, on Page D6 Thursday, failed to attribute the information to either source.