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Jaw-dropping images as pilots sucked out window

May 17, 2018 Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

Cases of pilots being sucked out of cockpit windows in flight are profoundly rare (which is fortunate for all concerned) – but one such incident has just happened and graphic footage exists of an earlier one.

A Sichuan Airlines flight was compelled to make an emergency landing this week when the cockpit windscreen blew out and the co-pilot was reportedly sucked halfway out of the cockpit.

According to a Reuters report, the flight from Chongqing, China to Lhasa, Tibet had reached its cruising altitude of 32,000 feet when a loud crack rang out, the windscreen ruptured, the cabin depressurised and the co-pilot was dragged halfway out the window.

Though serious, the incident had a fortunate outcome. The co-pilot’s seatbelt prevented his vanishing into the troposphere, flight crew pulled him back in and, amazingly, he suffered only scratches and a sprained wrist. Pilot Liu Chuanjian landed the Airbus A319 manually and none of the plane’s 119 passengers was hurt.

One of the most dramatic instances of a pilot being sucked out of a cockpit window (again, miraculously, with no fatalities or serious injuries) happened to British Airways flight 5390 over England in 1990.

British pilot Tim Lancaster was flying a BAC One-Eleven airliner carrying four cabin crew and 81 passengers from Birmingham to Malaga, Spain.

Flight attendant Nigel Ogden was entering the cockpit when a loud bang issued from the left windscreen panel, on Lancaster’s side of the flight deck, which then separated from the forward fuselage. Lancaster shot out of his seat, caught by the rushing air from the decompression, and was forced head first out of the plane. His knees remained jammed on the flight controls while his upper torso was outside the aircraft, exposed to extreme wind and cold and buffeted around like a rag doll.

Other flight attendants secured loose objects, reassured passengers, and instructed them to adopt brace positions for emergency landing.

Co-pilot Alastair Atchison took over. The crew believed the pilot dead, but Atchison told the others to keep hold of him by the feet in case his body flew into the left engine and damaged it.

Atchison made an emergency landing at Southampton Airport. Astoundingly, Lancaster survived with frostbite, bruising, shock, and fractures to his right arm, left thumb and right wrist. There were no other major injuries. Lancaster returned to work after less than five months and continued flying as a commercial pilot for another 18 years before retiring in 2008.

First Officer Alastair Stuart Atchison and cabin crewmembers Susan Gibbins and Nigel Ogden were awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air.

Written by Peter Needham

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