Co-pilot survives being half sucked out of windshield
A Chinese passenger jet was forced to make an emergency landing after the co-pilot was 'sucked halfway out' of the cockpit after the windshield shattered in mid-air.
Speaking to the 'Chengdu Economic Daily', Captain Liu Chuanjian said the aircraft had just reached an altitude of 32,000ft when the windshield smashed.
"There was no warning sign. Suddenly the windshield just cracked and made a loud bang. The next thing I know, my co-pilot had been sucked halfway out of the window," he said.
"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."
Because he was wearing a seatbelt, the co-pilot was pulled back into the cockpit, sustaining only scratches to his face and a sprained wrist. One other member of cabin crew was injured in the descent, but none of the 119 passengers were hurt.
The temperature of the cockpit is reported to have dropped to -40C, forcing the plane to descend rapidly for five to six seconds before the pilot grabbed an oxygen mask and managed to manually regain control.
The Sichuan Airlines flight left the central Chinese municipality of Chongqing on Monday, bound for Lhasa, Tibet.
It made the emergency landing at Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, 400km west of Chongqing.
Sichuan Airlines is a regional airline based in Chengdu.
It mainly operates domestic flights, but has international routes to Canada, Japan and the Czech Republic.
The incident comes just weeks after a woman died on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas when part of the engine broke off, shattered a window and nearly sucked her out. Jennifer Riordan, a banking executive, was pulled back into the aircraft by other passengers, who attempted to resuscitate her, but she later died of her injuries.
Cockpit windshields are typically comprised of several layers, designed to deal with air pressure of up to 400 knots and to avoid shattering when striking a bird.
A common cause of windshields shattering is severe hailstorms. In August 2015, a Delta Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Colorado after its windscreen and nose cone were badly damaged by hail.
Despite the damage, the pilots were able to land the airline safely. A similar incident occurred on an Atlasglobal flight from Istanbul to north Cyprus last year.
Another cause could be a malfunctioning component within the cockpit. In June 2010, pilots in an American Airlines Boeing 757 were showered with glass after a loose screw in the cockpit window heater caused the inside ply of the windscreen to shatter.
The windshield may also break if it has not been heated correctly.
Many aircraft have electronically heated windshields to soften the acrylic layer in case of a bird-strike.
However, if the windshield is heated unevenly or short- circuits, it may crack or shatter due to the difference of pressure inside and outside the cabin. (© Daily Telegraph, London)