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British Airways Pilot Sucked Out of Fuselage for 35 Minutes, lives to tell

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British Airways Pilot Sucked Out of Fuselage for 35 Minutes, lives to tell

Post by planeanxiety » Mon Nov 04, 2019 12:24 pm

British Airways Flight 5390 was a flight from Birmingham Airport in England for Málaga Airport in Spain that suffered explosive decompression, with no loss of life, shortly after takeoff on 10 June 1990. An improperly installed windscreen panel separated from its frame, causing the plane's captain to be blown partially out of the aircraft. With the captain pinned against the window frame for twenty minutes, the first officer managed to land at Southampton Airport.

The County of South Glamorgan was a BAC One-Eleven Series 528FL jet airliner, registered as G-BJRT. The captain was 42-year-old Tim Lancaster, who had logged 11,050 flight hours, including 1,075 hours on the BAC One-eleven; the copilot was 39-year-old Alastair Atchison, with 7,500 flight hours, with 1,100 of them on the BAC One-eleven. The aircraft also carried four cabin crew and 81 passengers.

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Atchison handled a routine take-off at 08:20 local time (07:20 UTC) then handed control to Lancaster as the plane continued to climb. Both pilots released their shoulder harnesses and Lancaster loosened his lap belt. At 08:33 (07:33 UTC) the plane had climbed through about 17,300 feet (5,300 m)over Didcot, Oxfordshire, and the cabin crew were preparing for meal service. Flight attendant Nigel Ogden was entering the cockpit when there was a loud bang and the cabin quickly filled with condensation. The left windscreen panel, on Lancaster's side of the flight deck, had separated from the forward fuselage; Lancaster was propelled out of his seat by the rushing air from the decompression and forced head first out of the flight deck. His knees were caught on the flight controls and his upper torso remained outside the aircraft, exposed to extreme wind and cold. The autopilot had disengaged, causing the plane to descend rapidly. The flight deck door was blown inward onto the control console, blocking the throttle control (causing the aircraft to gain speed as it descended) and papers and debris blew into the flight deck from the passenger cabin. Ogden rushed to grab Lancaster's belt, while the other two flight attendants secured loose objects, reassured passengers, and instructed them to adopt brace positions in anticipation of an emergency landing.

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The plane was not equipped with oxygen for everyone on board, so Atchison began a rapid emergency descent to reach an altitude with sufficient air pressure. He then re-engaged the autopilot and broadcast a distress call, but he was unable to hear the response from air traffic control because of wind noise; the difficulty in establishing two-way communication led to a delay in initiation of emergency procedures. Ogden, still holding on to Lancaster, was by now developing frostbite and exhaustion, so chief steward John Heward and flight attendant Simon Rogers took over the task of holding on to the captain. By this time Lancaster had shifted several inches further outside and his head was repeatedly striking the side of the fuselage. The crew believed him to be dead, but Atchison told the others to keep hold of him because his body might fly into the left engine and damage it.

Eventually Atchison was able to hear the clearance from air traffic control to make an emergency landing at Southampton Airport. The flight attendants managed to free Lancaster's ankles from the flight controls while still keeping hold of him. At 08:55 local time (07:55 UTC), the aircraft landed at Southampton and the passengers disembarked using boarding steps.

Lancaster survived with frostbite, bruising, shock, and fractures to his right arm, left thumb and right wrist. Ogden dislocated his shoulder and had frostbite on his face, with damage to one eye. There were no other major injuries. Lancaster returned to work after less than five months and retired from commercial piloting in 2008.

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