When the airplane descended through 14,000 feet, the first officer switched the radio to the Maui Tower frequency. At 1348:35, she informed the tower of the rapid decompression, declared an emergency, and stated the need for emergency equipment. Maui Tower acknowledged and began emergency notifications based on the first officer's report of decompression.
At the local controller's direction, the specialist working the Maui Tower clearance delivery position notified the airport's rescue and firefighting personnel, via the direct hot line, that a B-737 had declared an emergency, was inbound and that the nature of the emergency was a decompression. Rescue vehicles took up alert positions along the left side of the runway.
At the Maui Airport, ambulance service was available from the nearby community when notified by control tower personnel through the local "911" telephone number. Tower personnel did not consider it necessary at that time to call for an ambulance based on their understanding of the nature of the emergency.
The local controller instructed flight 243 to change to the Maui Sector transponder code to identify the flight and indicate to surrounding air traffic control (ATC) facilities that the flight was being handled by the Maui ATC facility. The first officer changed the transponder as requested.
The flight was operating beyond the local controller's area of radar authority of about 13 nmi. At 1350:58, the local controller requested the flight to switch to 119.5 MHz. (approach frequency) so that the approach controller could monitor the flight. Although the request was acknowledged, the flight was not heard on 119.5 MHz. Flight 243 continued to transmit on the local controller frequency.
At 1353:44, the first officer informed the local controller, "We're going to need assistance. We cannot communicate with the flight attendants. We'll need assistance for the passengers when we land." An ambulance request was not initiated as a result of this radio call. The first officer also provided the local controller with the flight's passenger count, but she did not indicate the fuel load. The local controller did not repeat the request for the fuel load even after a query from the chief of the emergency response team.
The captain stated that he began slowing the airplane as the flight approached 10,000 feet mean sea level (msl). This maneuver is required as a routine operations practice to comply with ATC speed limitations. He retracted the speed brakes, removed his oxygen mask, and began a gradual turn toward Maul's runway 02. At 210 knots IAS, the flightcrew could communicate verbally. The captain gave the command to lower the flaps. Initially flaps 1 were selected, then flaps 5. When attempting to extend beyond flaps 5, the airplane became less controllable, and the captain decided to return to flaps 5 for the landing.
Because the captain found the airplane becoming less controllable below 170 knots IAS, he elected to use 170 knots IAS for the approach and landing.
Using the public address (PA) system and on-board interphone, the first officer attempted to communicate with the flight attendants; however, there was no response.
At the command of the captain, the first officer lowered the landing gear at the normal point in the approach pattern. The main gear indicated down and locked; however, the nose gear position indicator light did not illuminate. Manual nose gear extension was selected and still the green indicator light did not illuminate; however, the red landing gear unsafe indicator light was not illuminated. After another manual attempt, the handle was placed down to complete the manual gear extension procedure. The captain said no attempt was made to use the nose gear downlock viewer because the center jumpseat was occupied and the captain believed it was urgent to land the airplane immediately.
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