A Sichuan Airlines co-pilot was sucked halfway out of an aircraft’s cockpit when its windshield shattered during a flight, Chinese state media has reported.
Captain Liu Chuanjian and his crew were praised for making an emergency landing after the incident, which occurred Monday morning at 30,000 feet on an Airbus A319 flight from the southern city of Chongqing to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.
“The situation was very critical,” Jiang Wenxue, a Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) official, was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua. “The windshield was blown off at a 10,000-meter-high altitude. The aircraft was in a state of low pressure, and a temperature was minus 30 to minus 40 degree Celsius.”
The co-pilot almost got sucked out of the cockpit but kept calm, according to Chinese state television station CCTV.
“There was no sign before the windshield burst, just a huge noise,” Capt. Liu said, according to state news agency China News Service. “When I looked at the other side, the co-pilot was partially blown out of the aircraft. Luckily, he had the belt buckled up. Many devices were malfunctioned, and the plane was jolting strongly. It was very difficult to control.”
The co-pilot suffered scratches and a sprained wrist, the CAA said, adding a flight attendant was also injured. None of the plane’s 119 passengers were injured, and the aircraft safely landed at Chengdu Shuangliu Airport in southern China.
However, passengers and crew described frightening scenes on board the plane during the incident.
“All people were shouting on board,” Zhou Yanwen, the injured flight attendant, was quoted as saying by China News Service. “We just tried our best to reassure the passengers and make everyone believe us that we could touch down safely.”
“It happened as the flight attendants were serving our meals,” the agency quoted an unnamed passenger as saying. “People were shocked.”
Zhou said some air stewardesses were thrown into air and food was strewn about.
The windshield shattered over the southwest city of Chengdu about 80 minutes after flight 3U8633 took off at 6:27 a.m. local time (10:27 GMT), the CAA said in statement released by CCTV.
An investigation into the incident is underway.
Chinese people praised the pilot as an “epic hero” on social media, according to China News Service.
“The crew were level-headed and dealt with the crisis decisively and properly, avoiding a major disaster, which shows the superb technical skills and professionalism,” the CAA said.
The incident came nearly a month after the death of a woman who was partially sucked out of a window that broke during a Southwest Airlines flight over the United States.
Southwest passenger Jennifer Riordan died as a result of injuries she suffered in the April 17 flight. Something in the engine broke apart midair, and debris broke a window, passengers said, pulling part of Riordan’s body out as passengers tried to pull her back in. The incident is under investigation.