April 28, 1988: Stewardess Sucked Out of Jet Airliner in Flight!

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A Brief History

On April 28, 1988, Aloha Airlines flight 243 was on the way to Honolulu from Hilo when a huge portion of the upper part of the fuselage blew off the airplane.

Digging Deeper

The 19 year old Boeing 737, named Queen Liliuokalani was one of the most common jet liners in the world.

Flying at about 24,000 feet 23 minutes into the flight, the ceiling above the passengers just aft of the entrance door suddenly and explosively ripped off, leaving an open sun roof about one quarter the length of the airplane!

Flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing, age 58, was immediately sucked out the top of the jet and disappeared along with the section of passenger cabin roof.

Incredibly, the other 90 passengers and 4 crew members all survived, although 65 of them were injured.  Also incredibly, the jet was able to descend to make an emergency landing on Maui.  Of the 65 injured, 8 were injured severely.

Fuselage remains after the emergency landing

The cause of the devastating failure of the airplanes hull was deemed to be metal stress fatigue brought on by age and salt air corrosion.  The missing section of the jet was 18 feet long and spanned the entire width of the cabin.  Only because all passengers and crew except the unlucky Ms. Lansing were belted in prevented more fatalities.  No sign of either Lansing or the piece of airplane were ever found.

Passenger Gayle Yammamoto saw a crack in the ceiling with daylight shining through prior to take off and did not tell anyone!  Investigators found that the aircraft hull probably failed according to design, with only a 10 inch by 10 inch hole initially developing, but the rush of air out of the cabin (700 mph!) sucked Lansing into the hole and temporarily plugged it, causing the massive loss of the outer skin of the jet. Obviously, the jet was considered a total loss.

This incident has to be one of if not the most amazing tales of surviving an aircraft disaster of all time.  Question for students (and subscribers):  Are you afraid to fly?  If so, tell us why in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Arii, Henry S.  Aloha Flight 243.  BookSurge Publishing, 2008.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.