Air Transport World

After the storm, Aloha in calm waters. (Aloha Airlines renews fleet)

Honolulu-At Aloha Airlines, recent events are often put into a time frame by reference to The Accident, as in "that happened before The Accident."

Which accident they are talking about is obvious. The only accident in the airline's 44-year history and perhaps the most publicized single-fatality accident in modern aviation, was Aloha's April 28, 1988, 737 in-flight fuselage-structure failure that ripped off 18 ft. of cabin skin and structure, pulling a flight attendant from the airplane. The photos and videotape of the landed airliner captivated the world's press and revolutionized the airline industry's maintenance practices. Few thought that a failure of that type could occur and, once it had occurred, no one thought the airplane should have held together. The airline industry instantly marshaled forces to make sure that this accident remains one of a kind.

Two years ago, Aloha was an industry leader but not in a desirable sense. Its older 737s, although having relatively low numbers of flight hours logged, were the world's lead aircraft in the number of cycles flown. Although few in the industry suspected, Aloha was leading the way into exploration of the phenomenon of multiple-site damage (MSD). This unintended experiment ended with The Accident.

One of the things that happened before The Accident was a decision by Aloha management to sharply upgrade the carrier's maintenance program, personnel and facilities. This decision in favor of change in the maintenance system was not intended to be a problem fix but rather, came from a routine business judgment, according to carrier President and CEO A. Maurice Myers-there was an expectation that the older aircraft would require more care and Myers was positioning the airline for the future. "Boeing was revealing some interesting data on older aircraft and we were preparing for growth. We were flying the leading 737 fleet in cycles."

When Thomas F. Derieg came on board in May, 1987 as senior VP-operations after stints in charge of maintenance at Florida Express and Frontier Commuter, "Tom's mandate was to get the maintenance program as good as possible," Myers said.

The tightening of the program that was planned and, in part, already under way before the accident, was intensified by several levels afterward. The result today, after an investment of $11 million, is a maintenance program and a fleet physical condition that surely rivals any in the world for quality and care, especially on an airline of Aloha's size.

NTSB recommendations

When the National Transportation Safety Board issued its report on the Aloha accident last year, it sent three recommendations to the carrier for improving maintenance. By mid-October, three months later, Aloha detailed its new program for NTSB. Satisfied, the board closed its books on the situation. …

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