The Roof Of This Plane Blew Off 2400 Feet Up In The Air | All Passengers Were Shockingly Saved!

The Roof Of This Plane Blew Off 2400 Feet Up In The Air | All Passengers Were Shockingly Saved!

Imagine you’re on a plane and halfway between islands, the unimaginable happens. The roof of your plane blew off, exposing everyone to the high-altitude air. This was the terrifying reality for passengers on Aloha Airlines Flight 243 on April 28, 1988. Departing from Hilo International Airport for a routine trip to Honolulu, soon turned into a fight for survival. The plane’s roof then ripped apart after an explosive decompression mid-air. Surprisingly, all the passengers survived and landed safely. However, one of the flight attendants drifted out while bringing a drink to a passenger. Let’s explore the details of the story and how the pilot was able to safely navigate until they landed. 

Aloha Flight 243: The Journey and the Catastrophe

 Flight attendant Clarabelle “C.B.” Lansing who was bringing a drink to a passenger tragically went away to the skies. 

On April 28, 1988, flight 243 took off from Hilo International Airport at 13:25 HST. The flight had five crew members along with 90 passengers on board. Nothing seemed unusual during the pre-departure checks. The aircraft had already finished slow three round-trip flights from Honolulu to Hilo, Maui, and Kauai earlier that day. 

The aircraft flew to its regular altitude of 24,000 feet (7,300 m) around 13:48. But soon their peace turned to absolute horror. All passengers and crew heard a “whooshing” sound. The captain felt a sudden loss of control of the aircraft. The first officer then noticed pieces of grey insulation drifting in the cockpit. The cockpit door soon broke open and the captain saw “blue sky where the first-class ceiling had been.”

Pilots wrestled with the controls, while passengers faced the surreal nightmare of an open sky above them.

Image source: Maui News

One Flight Attendant Got Swept Away!

Clarabelle “C.B.” Lansing, the 58-year-old flight attendant, was the only one who tragically passed away from the incident. She was standing near the fifth-row seats while getting a drink for a passenger. Clarabelle got swept out of the aircraft and her body was never recovered. By the time of this shocking event, Lansing had been serving as a veteran flight attendant for 37 years. 

During the depressurization, the passengers were seated and wearing seat belts. Many passengers suffered serious injuries and trauma. 

Clarabelle "C.B." Lansing
Image source: Unbelievable facts (Clarabelle “C.B.” Lansing)

The Cause Of The Disaster!

What could cause such a disaster? The answer lies in the unseen killers of poor maintenance and metal fatigue. This incident showed the critical importance of dynamic aircraft upkeep and the hidden dangers of wear and tear. Aviation safety at the time was forever changed. The aviation community took a hard look at its standards and practices to prevent a repeat of such a catastrophe.

roof of this plane blew up
Image source: University De Mons

The Crew’s Response Saved Lives

In the face of close danger, the crew’s actions were nothing short of heroic. 

The pilot flying at the time of horror was First Officer Tompkins. Captain Schornstheimer soon took the controls under his charge and did an emergency descent. The crew announced the details of the emergency descent and shifted towards the Kahului Airport for a crisis landing. 

While they were coming down to the airport, the left engine of the aircraft failed. However, there was no time to panic. Taking the risk, the pilots carried on to fly the play towards the runway. Thankfully, they landed safely on Runway 2, roughly thirteen minutes following the incident. Evacuation slides were soon opened for an emergency evacuation. Sixty-five people suffered injuries, while eight of them were serious. 

At the time of this horrifying event, Maui was not expecting such an emergency and had no plans on how to take action. However, the wounded were brought to the nearest hospital in tour vans of Akamai Tours. The vehicles were driven by all office personnel and mechanics available, as only two ambulances were present in Maui. Everybody came together to support and save many lives during this tragic event. 

roof of this plane blew up
Image source: / Wikipedia

The Legacy of Flight 243: Lessons and Memorials

Flight 243’s legacy is a complex tapestry of sorrow, lessons learned, and the ongoing journey of those touched by the tragedy. Aviation safety protocols were rebuilt. They came up with a new focus on regular inspections and maintenance to catch signs of metal fatigue early. Clarabelle Lansing’s memory lives on, a reminder of the human cost of technological oversight. Survivors carry forward a renewed appreciation for life and community, embodying resilience in the face of adversity.


The story of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 serves as a profound reminder of our vulnerability and our strength. It underscores the essential balance between technological advancement and the relentless attention to safety that must accompany it. As we marvel at the human capacity to survive and adapt, let us also commit to learning from the past, ensuring that such a harrowing skyward ordeal never happens again.

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