In yet another alarming case of a window being damaged during a flight, resulting in someone being partially sucked out, Sichuan Airlines flight 3U8633 was forced to make an emergency landing on May 7.
The windshield in the cockpit of the Airbus A319 broke at 32,000 feet. The co-pilot and a fellow crew member luckily suffered only minor injuries. There were 119 passengers aboard the flight from the southern city of Chongqing to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. The co-pilot managed to remain calm, though he endured scratches and a sprained wrist.
"The situation was very critical. 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," Jiang Wenxue, a Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) official said.
"There was no sign before the windshield burst. Just a huge noise," Capt. Liu said. "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 aircraft eventually landed safely at Chengdu Shuangliu Airport in southern China. Zhou Yanwen, the injured flight attendant, who was the other crew member injured, reported, "All people were shouting onboard. We just tried our best to reassure the passengers and make everyone believe us that we could touch down safely."
The incident occured while the crew was serving meals, said Yanwen, who added that many people were shocked as they observed flight attendants being thrown into the air and food flying. The windshield cracked over the southwest city of Chengdu roughly 80 minutes into the flight, which had taken off at 6:27 a.m. The incident is currently underway. The pilot has been praised by social media as a hero.
"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 occurred almost a month after a woman died aboard a Southwest Airlines flight in the United States when a window shattered and she was partially sucked out. Jennifer Riordan died as a result of her injuries on the April 17 flight. The window broke after a part of the engine cracked during the flight, which caused debris to fly into the window. Other passengers aboard the flight attempted to pull Riordan back into the plane but her injuries proved fatal.
Riordan leaves behind a husband, Michael, and two children. She met her spouse 29 years ago when they were teenagers. The family lived in New Mexico. Talking to ABC News, Riordan said, “The chaplain at the hospital called and said, ‘We need to speak with Mike Riordan who is married to Jennifer. Are you married to Jennifer Riordan?’”
Riordan related the conversation: “I said, Yes, but she wasn’t going through Philadelphia. She was planning on going to Chicago so I don’t think you — just absolute denial. I’m still in denial. He said I need to have a doctor talk to you. I saw one passenger was brought to the hospital, like, OK, but the whole plane didn’t crash. I was like, She can’t be injured that bad she’s just in a hospital, but I can get out there and I can hold her hand and tell her I love her, it just can’t be that bad.”
Two minutes after reading an article related to the crash, Riordan was informed by the doctor that his wife had died, despite the hospital’s best efforts.