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Case Study Analysis: Aloha Airlines Flight 243

Cause of Accident

Analysis of the flight history reveals that the accident was caused by the complacency in the entire Aloha Airlines Company. The unexpected rupture of the airplane's fuselage and the cockpit entry door was due to lack of inspection of the airplane (Aloha Airlines, 1997). In an act that seemed to be a ritual-fulfilling practice, the first flight officer casually performed the preflight visual exterior inspection. As such, she could not have seen the crack that was developing around the airplane's cockpit door.

This complacency was further extended by the captain, who completed his traditional duties without confirming the exterior condition of the airplane. The entire crew was so complacent about the point of ignoring a simple but important task of checking the airplane's exterior condition. When the crack might have been so visible, neither the pilot nor any of the crew left the airplane for visual exterior inspection before they departed from Hilo Airport (NTSB, 1989).

One of the passengers failed to communicate the longitudinal crack she noticed the cabin door and the jet bridge Hood's joint. Her communication about the observation would have helped in avoiding the accident.

Structural and Mechanical Factors

The cold-bond used in the airplane's fuselage skin lap joints might have contributed to the separation of its parts. As it was pointed out by the Boeing engineers, production difficulties might have resulted in the bonds that have low environmental durability and are susceptible to corrosion (Erdogan, 1995). Moreover, some of these lap joints did not actually bond.

Additionally, the cylindrical shape of the airplane's fuselage might have resulted in the larger longitudinal stresses that led to the rapid decompression and the separation experienced. Boeing engineers pointed out that circumferential pressurization stresses double the longitudinal stresses in a cylindrical fuselage (NTSB, 1989).

Contributing Factors

Lack of proper flight regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) might have contributed to the accident. Since the company's FAA acceptance procedures did not require flight crew's visual exterior inspections between flights, none of these inspections were done (Aubury, 2012). Therefore, the crew could not notice this crack and other exterior discrepancies that might have been developing between the flights.

Investigation Board Findings

From the Safety Board's findings, the accident was due to structural separation of the pressurized fuselage skin resulting in an explosive decompression. The fuselage failure that was initiated at the lap joint was due to multiple site fatigue cracking of the skin adjacent to this joint (NTSB, 1989).

The Aloha Airline management contributed to the accident by failing to recognize human factors pertaining visual and nondestructive inspections. The overlook of these factors and lack of motivation to do such inspections were major contributing factors (NTSB, 1989).

Recommendations

The Safety Board recommended that the FAA was to define and provide some acceptable parameters for the corrosion control program that would guide both the operators and the PMI. Due to the complacency of the operators, the Board also recommended that the FAA should take a leading role in encouraging extensive research towards improving the methods of detecting and preventing corrosions (NTSB, 1989).

Additionally, the Board strongly recommended that "the classification of fuselage minimum gage skin as damage obvious was to be discontinued and the affected SSIPs be revised accordingly" (NTSB, 1989). According to the Safety Board, the revision of the remaining SSIs was to be done according to the recent approach for its inclusion in the SSIP.

Outcomes

As the initial response to the accident investigation board's report, the United Airlines' Vice President of the Technical Services was appointed to lead an Airworthiness Assurance, Task Force. This task force, set up by FAA's International Conference on Aging Airplanes, has facilitated tremendous improvements in the maintenance of such airplanes (Aubury, 2012).

Secondly, recommendations of the Safety Board pushed the Government to develop a mandatory corrosion control programs that were introduced in 1992. All airline operators were, therefore, required to put in place the systems sufficient for the prevention and inspection of corrosion (Aubury, 2012).