MIAMI — A Sichuan Airlines Airbus A319 flying from Chongqing to Lhasa was forced to make an emergency landing about 20 minutes after its right windshield cracked and shattered into the plane as it cruised at 33,000 feet, hitting and injuring the First Officer.
The flight’s Captain, Liu Chuanjian, narrated the horrific accident to local Red Star News. “The windshield cracked suddenly and gave a huge bang. I looked aside and found half of the co-pilot’s body was already outside the window. Fortunately, his seat belt was fastened,” he said.
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
“The sudden loss of pressure and low temperature made me very uncomfortable and it was very difficult to make a single move when the aircraft was flying at 900 kilometers an hour and such a high altitude,” the captain explained.
As the emergency unfolded, the Captain initiated an emergency descent and diverted to Chengdu.
According to him, he descended to 23,500ft, which was the minimum safe altitude in the area because of the tall mountains in the vicinity of the flight’s routing. As the plane cleared the mountainous area, it descended to a more suitable 9,000ft, where oxygen levels are adequate for the human body.
The Southwest Regional Administration CAAC released a preliminary event bulletin, suggesting that “the aircraft was en route at 9,800 meters at 0.74-0.75 match when the right-hand windshield developed cracks, the crew received an ECAM message regarding the windshield heating soon followed by the windshield bursting.”
Even though the First Officer faced the harshest consequences, he only received minor injuries.
Following the windshield incident, the Flight Crew was unable to establish ATC communications because of the loud noise coming in from the wind speed bursting into the Flight Deck.
According to the bulletin, the Captain dialed the emergency code on the airplane’s transponder, signaling the airport to clear the runway for an imminent landing.
According to some witness passengers, oxygen masks were released and all Flight Attendants performed the emergency maneuvers flawlessly.
The bulletin also specified that the aircraft (B-6419 • MSN 4660) had accumulated a total of 19,912 flight hours and 12,920 flight cycles, with its last C-Check, finished in March 2017. Also, no windshield malfunctions had been recorded during the preceding 15 days.
The plane was delivered on July 26, 2011, and is fitted with two IAE V2527M-A5 engines.
Sichuan Airlines, based at Chengdu Shuangliu Airport, boasts an all-Airbus fleet of 132 planes, composed of 23 A319s, 60 A320s, 37 A321s, and 12 A330s. The airline also has three A350s on order. The average fleet age is just of 5.6 years.
The incident is still under investigation.