On the morning of 14 May passengers and crew on board Sichuan Airlines flight 3U8633 from Chongqing to Lhasa, dramatically landed in Chengdu 1 hour after take-off, after the cockpit’s windshield smashed, causing the copilot to be partially sucked out of the aircraft, and damaging major parts of the planes operating system.
“When I looked to the side, the copilot’s body had already flown out halfway out of the window. Fortunately, he was wearing a seat belt. All the cockpit items were flying. A lot of equipment malfunctioned and the noise was so great that the radio could not be heard. The entire aircraft was vibrating and it was impossible to see the instruments and it was difficult to operate”, pilot Liu Chuanjian told reporters from the Chengdu Business Daily of the ordeal.
While the airline has officially maintained that an investigation is still underway as to the exact cause of the windshield failure, passengers have praised the crew for safely landing the Airbus A319 under such conditions.
Passengers report being mid breakfast when the plane suddenly went dark, oxygen masks dropped and the plane plummeted toward the mountainous area below. One flight attendant was injured by the food cart before strapping herself into the nearest seat.
Pilots regained control of the plane and after circling in the air for some time managed to land the plane safely in Chengdu. One pilot suffered an ear injury, while a number of passengers suffered from lack of oxygen and tinnitus.
“A sudden pressure change can cause great damage to the eardrum. The temperature dropped abruptly to minus 20-30 degrees Celsius, and extreme cold also have caused the driver’s to suffer from frostbite”, said Liu.
Yesterday’s Sichuan Airlines emergency landing comes after a string of similar windshield worries from around the world. On 7 May, a JetBlue Airlines flight had to perform an emergency landing after the aircraft’s windscreen shattered mid-flight, while a Lufthansa flight made an emergency call before landing in Dublin on 23 April after its cockpit windshield cracked.