Aerospace in 1988: Impact of Aging Planes on U.S. Airlines
Aerospace in 1988: the Impact of Aging Planes on U.S. Airlines raised some debate about how long a plane must outstay its usefulness. The year’s most bizarre accident occurred on April 28, when a Boeing 737 of Aloha Airlines was completing a flight from Hilo, Hawaii, to Honolulu. A flight attendant was serving a last round of drinks prior to the descent for landing. The jet, at 24,000 feet, was traveling at 330 miles per hour. Without warning, an 18-foot section of the forward fuselage suddenly ripped open and tore away; the flight attendant, one passenger recalled, just disappeared into the sky. Incredibly, the attendant, a veteran of 37 years with the airline, was the only fatality among the 95 people aboard, although dozens were injured. The plane’s captain kept the plane under control and made an emergency landing at the nearest airport, on the island of Maui.
The damaged plane had been in service for 19 years, mainly on flights lasting 20-40 minutes, so that the pressurized cabin had experienced some 88,000 pressurization cycles. This may have weakened a section of the plane’s skin. In any case, a trio of Aloha’s older 737 transports with high cycle numbers was retired, and the FAA restricted the operating ceilings of all older Boeing 737s while stringent inspection procedures were carried out.
Those inspections, however, failed to detect a 30-inch series of cracks on another 19-year-old Boeing 737, this one belonging to Continental. The cracks, in roughly the same area as the weakened portion of the damaged Aloha jet, were discovered only when the plane was undergoing routine repainting. They appeared to have resulted from improper repairs thought to have been made before the plane was sold to Continental by Frontier Airlines a few years ago.
In a shift in its safety strategy, which had been built around frequent inspections, the FAA in October proposed a tough new rule requiring extensive strengthening of the structure of older 737s. The FAA also announced a final rule imposing operating ceilings on older 737s as well as even more stringent inspection rules for them. Aerospace in 1988: Impact of Aging Planes on U.S. Airlines finally saw some stringent measures on the part of the FAA to control incidence of accidents.
- New Technology, New Airports for Aerospace in 1988 (egrejeen.wordpress.com)