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Aloha Pilots Say They Are Ready To Return To Air

May 14, 1988

HONOLULU (AP) _ The pilots who safely landed an Aloha Airlines jetliner April 28 after the cabin blew open at 24,000 feet said Friday they look forward to returning to the air in a few days.

″I’ve ridden in a couple airplanes since the incident,″ the pilot, Robert Schornstheimer, said at a news conference. ″I’m really more comfortable at the controls of an airplane than I am in this setting here.″

Schornstheimer and co-pilot Mimi Tompkins landed the Boeing 737 on the island of Maui after a third of the cabin peeled away on a Hilo-to-Honolu lu flight. A flight attendant was swept to her death and 61 passengers were injured.

A check of Federal Aviation Administration records Friday showed 14 cracks or instances of corrosion were found in several routine maintenance checks on the plane before the accident, but none of the defects was found in the area of the damage.

According to FAA records, each of the cracks or corroded areas was repaired by replacing sections of the plane’s metal skin.

A federal investigation has focused on metal fatigue as a possible cause of the accident.

Neither pilot would discuss the cause. However, they related the 15 harrowing minutes while they guided the crippled plane to an emergency landing.

″It was a split-second thing. There was a loud noise and the cockpit door was gone and there was blue sky,″ Schornstheimer said. He added: ″Normally, you don’t expect to lose that much of an airplane and still be able to fly it.″

According to FAA records, the defects uncovered during routine maintenance by Aloha were on the rear-bottom portions or wings of the plane during routine Aloha inspections. The top of the cabin peeled away in the accident.

Nick Wantiez, Aloha director of engineering, said the number of defects was ″not untypical of some airplanes, but probably better than most.″

″Generally, it was in quite good shape from a corrosion standpoint,″ Wantiez said. ″The basic airplane looked quite clean.″

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