#NTXplore: The Day A Plane’s Window Blew Out During Flight And Pilot Gets Sucked Out


BA Flight 5390. The story

BA Flight 5390, a BAC One-Eleven, was carrying 81 passengers and six crew at the time of the incident.

When the window was blown out, the force of the air rushing out of the aperture caused the door of the flight deck to blow inwards and fall onto the plane’s controls. The throttle was forced open, meaning that the plane was accelerating as it began to lose altitude.

Heading downwards at 80 feet a second and with winds of -17C rushing around them, the crew were forced to cling onto the unconscious Lancaster, whose weight was made equivalent to 500lb due to the suction force of the air outside the plane.

Weird facts

Lancaster was treated for fractures to his right arm, left thumb and right wrist, as well as frostbite and shock.  Remarkably, he returned to work within five months.

Flight attendant Nigel Ogden suffered a dislocated shoulder and frostbite to his face and eye.  He returned to work after a break but suffered post-traumatic stress and took early retirement in 2001. No-one else involved in the incident was injured.

Accident investigators discovered that when the windscreen had been refitted to the plane the night before, the wrong bolts had been used to secure it; they were little more than half a millimetre too small, and had failed under intense air pressure.

Plane aftermath showing how the window blew out

The bolts had actually replaced other incorrect ones; the engineer, working under pressure and without reference to manuals, had simply replaced the old bolts with new ones on a like-for-like basis.

As a result of the incident, windscreens on British Airways planes are now secured by bolts on the inside of the plane, rather than the outside, putting them under even less pressure.

Standing middle: Captain Lancaster. Squatting middle copilot Atchinson. Left Ogden and right Head Steward. Months after the incident

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