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POOR MAINTENANCE BLAMED FOR ’89 AIRLINE DISASTER

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Poor maintenance and deficient design were to blame for a cargo door that blew open on a 1989 United Airlines flight over the Pacific, sweeping nine people to their deaths, the National Transportation Safety Board ruled Tuesday.

In a unanimous decision, the board ruled the sudden, in-flight opening of the improperly latched forward cargo door on the Boeing 747 was the "probable cause" of the accident last Feb. 24 on United Flight 811 from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia."A number of things went wrong," said Board Chairman James Kolstad. "We found deficiency in design, we found deficiency in maintenance."

The accident occured about 40 minutes after the jumbo jet carrying 337 passengers and 18 crew members took off after a stop in Honolulu. According to NTSB staff reports, the aircraft experienced a "tremendous explosion" of decompression at about 22,000 feet as the cargo door was ripped from the fuselage.