China, May 16, 2018 : A pilot of a Chinese passenger jet was reportedly “sucked halfway” out after a cockpit windshield shattered in mid-air while the plane cruised at 32,000ft.
The co-pilot suffered scratches and a sprained wrist, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said, adding that one other cabin crew member was also injured as the Sichuan Airlines Flight was forced to make an emergency landing.
Captain Liu Chuanjian, hailed a hero on social media after landing the Airbus A319 manually, told local media a deafening sound tore through the cockpit as the window exploded.
"Everything in the cockpit was floating in the air. Most of the equipment malfunctioned... and I couldn’t hear the radio. The plane was shaking so hard I could not read the gauges," he said.
The co-pilot, who was wearing a seatbelt, was pulled back in. None of the plane’s 119 passengers were injured, but an investigation into how the incident occurred is underway.
The flight, Sichuan Airlines 3U8633, left the central Chinese municipality of Chongqing on Monday morning and was bound for the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. It made its emergency landing in the southwest city of Chengdu.
"The crew were serving us breakfast when the aircraft began to shake. We didn’t know what was going on and we panicked. Then the oxygen masks dropped... We experienced a few seconds of free fall before it stabilised again," an unnamed passenger told the government-run China News Service.
"I’m still nervous. I don’t dare to take an airplane anymore. But I’m also happy I had a narrow escape."
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The windshield shattered about half an hour after the plane took off, the Chengdu Economic Daily said. A separate report said the aircraft had accumulated 19,912 flight hours since entering service at Sichuan Airlines in July 2011.
Incidents involving cracked windshields do happen on a regular basis due to occurrences such as bird or lightning strikes but ones involving entire windshields coming off are rare.
In 1990, one of the pilots on British Airways Flight 5390 was blown partially out of the cabin window after its windshield blew out at 23,000 feet. He survived the incident, which occurred on a BAC-111 jet.