(Yicai Global) May 17 -- Captain Liu Chuanjin, who successfully landed an aircraft after its windshield smashed mid-flight on May 14, recounted the “thrilling scene” to media at a press briefing held by Sichuan Airlines Co. in Chengdu, Sichuan province.
Liu recalled hearing a loud bang when the window cracked around an hour after takeoff from Chengdu, and after liaising with his fellow crewmen, he reported the incident to air traffic control and prepared to land.
“Less than a second after I made the call, the windshield burst with another bang,” he continued. “I saw my co-pilot half suspended out of the window. I tried to grab him, but failed. Fortunately, he was wearing his seatbelt.
“When I checked the instrument panel, I saw the aircraft was descending rapidly, I reported to air traffic control that we were down to 7,700 meters,” Liu said. Planes typically fly at altitudes of over 10,000 meters.
The plane was still traveling at 800 kilometers per hour, making it impossible to hear anything in the cockpit. Liu had to communicate using gestures, he added. The lack of windshield would have pushed temperatures in the cockpit to around minus 40 degrees Celsius, but Liu said he was unable to feel the cold until he was back in control of the plane and flying steadily.
He remembered the most difficult decision as being selecting what altitude to fly at without the windshield. “I hoped to descend to as low as possible, as soon as possible, because we were cold and low on oxygen. But that would mean traveling faster and a larger impact on touchdown,” he added.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China reported the incident on May 15, saying it was looking into the Airbus A319 involved. The windshield was the original part fitted when the plane went into operation on July 26, 2011, and there had been no records of faults or maintenance. It is still investigating the cause of the problem.
Editor: James Boynton