The first officer of a Sichuan Airlines Airbus A319 escaped with scratches and a sprained wrist on Monday morning after being ‘partially blown out’ of the aircraft when its windscreen burst at about 32,000 feet.
The flight took off from the southern city of Chongqing and was heading for the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. It landed at Chengdu Airport in southern China.
None of the 119 passengers was injured, though a member of the cabin crew was reported to have been hurt. The first officer had been wearing his seatbelt.
Captain Liu Chuanjian told local media, ‘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 … 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.’
The incident has similarities to an explosive decompression in a British Airways BAC 1-11 en route from Birmingham, England to Malaga, Spain, on 10 June 1990, in which the captain survived after being partially sucked out of the aircraft at 23,000 feet and pressed against the window frame for 20 minutes.
It was later discovered that a shift maintenance manager, under time pressure, had not checked maintenance documentation and used undersized bolts when a new windscreen was installed 27 hours before the flight. On the BAC-1-11, the bolts were installed on the outside, making the windscreen susceptible to cabin pressure.
In April this year, a woman passenger died after being partially sucked out of a window broken by debris from an engine failure on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737.