The co-pilot of a Sichuan Airlines flight that made an emergency landing in China on Monday was “sucked halfway” out of the plane after a cockpit windscreen broke off, the aircraft's captain said.
Captain Liu Chuanjian told the Chengdu Economic Daily his aircraft, which was flying from the Chinese municipality of Chongqing towards the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, had just reached a cruising altitude of 32,000 feet when a loud sound tore through the cockpit, bringing with it a sudden loss of pressure and drop in temperature.
“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 was quoted as saying.
Pictures shared online show the missing window on the co-pilot’s side of the cockpit.
“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,” Liu said.
His co-pilot, who was wearing a seatbelt, suffered scratches and a sprained wrist in the incident, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, which said one other cabin crew member was also injured in the descent.
None of the plane’s 119 passengers was injured.
Liu has been hailed as a hero on social media for managing to safely land the Airbus A319 in China’s southwest city of Chengdu, some 20 minutes after the accident happened.
Incidents involving cracked windshields happen regularly on flights due to occurrences such as bird or lightning strikes but ones involving entire windshields coming off are rare.
An investigation into what happened on Monday’s flight is underway.