Imagine the most dreaded scenario for any passenger on an airplane.
Over the weekend, an Alaska Airlines flight encountered a frightening incident when a door plug suddenly blew off mid-flight. This unexpected event compelled the plane to turn around and make an emergency landing promptly. Thankfully, although the cabin suffered damage, there were no serious injuries reported among the passengers or crew.
However, this mishap brings to mind a harrowing incident from more than three decades ago, where nine unfortunate passengers faced a tragic fate due to a similar door malfunction on a US flight.
On February 24, 1989, during the early hours, Flight 811 was en route from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Sydney, Australia, stopping in Auckland, New Zealand. As the Boeing 747 122 was ascending from Honolulu, an abrupt and thunderous noise shook the plane’s interior between altitudes of 22,000 and 23,000 feet, as stated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
In a matter of seconds, a cargo door located near the front of the aircraft tore off, causing significant damage to the fuselage and creating a gaping hole in both the cabin and cargo section, according to the FAA. Shockingly, nine passengers situated in that part of the plane were forcefully ejected into the dark expanse of the sky, as reported by the Associated Press. Tragically, at least one was drawn into one of the plane’s engines.
This haunting incident serves as a stark reminder of the catastrophic consequences that can result from a malfunctioning aircraft door during a flight.
“I was just trying to drift off to sleep when I caught a hissing noise,” recounted Gary M. Garber to the New York Times back then. “It went on for about three or four seconds, and I glanced at my wife beside me. Suddenly, there was an explosion, and I saw three or four rows of passengers on the right side of the plane being ejected.”
“Merely about 18 inches was separating me from the open air,” he recalled.
“Then, there was this deafening bang, and the plane rapidly descended,” shared passenger Suellyn Caudwell with the Rotorua Daily Post in 2018, reminiscing about the events from decades ago. “I caught sight of the moon’s reflection in the water, realizing I was peering through a gaping hole in the plane’s side.”
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