Whatever Happened...

An update on past news

Wednesday, January 22, 1997


Faulty lock on jet’s
cargo door changed

What ever happened in the investigation of United Airlines in a fatal 1989 door accident in a United jet going from Honolulu to New Zealand? A cargo door opened about 20 minutes out of Honolulu Airport, causing nine passengers to fall to their deaths.

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a reversal of a previous finding, released a report March 18, 1992, absolving United Airlines of responsibility for the Feb. 24, 1989, accident on a Boeing 747.

Retired New Zealand engineer Kevin Campbell, whose son Lee was one of the victims, recently received a New Zealand Order of Merit award for proving a faulty cargo-door lock caused the accident. He lobbied for the door to be recovered, and later inspection of it proved his theory.

The NTSB had ruled in 1990 that the cargo door had opened because it was improperly latched by United flight crew members. But later studies of the door, recovered from the Pacific floor by a Navy submarine in September 1990, indicated a malfunction in the door's electrical locking mechanism to be the likely cause. (Boeing had changed the design of the lock since the accident.)

The new report reasserted the board's criticism of Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to take prompt action after a similar cargo-door malfunction on a Pan American World Airways 747 in 1987. The board also recommended that the FAA order crews on 747s to cut electrical power to cargo doors after locking them to prevent future malfunctions.



By Harold Morse, Star-Bulletin



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