No cockpit windshield. A co-pilot half blown out of the plane. And automatic systems failure.
‘Chinese Sully’ lands plane after decompression at 32,000 feet
It wasn’t a usual Monday morning in the office for Captain Liu Chuanjian of Sichuan Airlines flight 3U8633.
His Airbus A319 plane was flying from the southwestern city of Chongqing to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, with 119 passengers and nine crew members on board.
But soon after the plane took off, the cockpit’s right windshield cracked, and then blew out – at an altitude of 32,000 feet.
Sichuan 3U8633 from Chongqing to Lhasa diverted to Chengdu. Lost one windshield at FL332. Descend to FL240 due to high terrain (@flightradar24 data). Cabin decomp. FCU failure and some parts sucked out. Landded safely with bust tires. One pilot and one cabin crew injured. pic.twitter.com/8aViRZoOE0— ChinaAviationReview (@ChinaAvReview) May 14, 2018
Captain Liu Chuanjian later recounted the dramatic accident to local news site Red Star News:
“The windshield suddenly cracked and gave a huge bang. When I looked to my side, the co-pilot had been partially sucked out. Half of his body was hanging out of the window. Fortunately he was wearing a seat belt.
“The sudden pressure loss and low temperature was very uncomfortable. I made every single move with great difficulty.
“It was extremely loud during the emergency descent. The automatic systems could not help anymore. I operated the plane manually and relied on my own eyesight. I handled the controls with my willpower.”
Over the course of 20 minutes Captain Liu wrestled the plane to the ground, and it touched down at 7:46 am in the city of Chengdu, about 170 miles from Chongqing.
Liu’s co-pilot suffered scratches to his face and injuries to the waist, while a cabin crew member also suffered minor injuries. No passengers were reported harmed.
The flight crew have received praise from the government and social media users for making the landing safely.
“So many families were saved,” said Weibo user bbbbbbb_10.
“That was the Chinese version of Sully,” commented Chengdushicao. “Pay our respects to the heroes.”
Plane windshields can be shattered by bird or lightning strikes, but it is rare for an entire windscreen to come off, according to Reuters.
Authorities are still investigating what caused the windshield to break.