A cockpit windshield on a Sichuan Airlines jet shattered while the plane was cruising at 32,000 feet, a rare incident that hurt the co-pilot and forced an emergency landing of the Airbus SE plane in southwestern China. One flight attendant was injured by the food cart before strapping herself into the nearest seat. "The entire aircraft was vibrating and it was impossible to see the instruments and it was hard to operate", pilot Liu Chuanjian told reporters from the Chengdu Business Daily of the ordeal. The flight was diverted to the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.
Flight 8633 left Chongqing, southwest of the Chinese capital of Beijing, just before 6:30 a.m. local time Monday.
"'When the window ruptures, you have those two pressure levels trying to equalize, ' said Ladd Sanger, an aviation attorney and licensed airplane and helicopter pilot".
'The exploded window caused the cockpit to decompress immediately, everything in the cockpit was floating in the air. The captain was sucked mostly out of the plane after a windscreen blow-out.
The co-pilot had his upper body "sucked out" of the broken windshield despite having a safety belt strapped on, stated the captain.
The CAA said the windshield showed no signs of malfunction that required any maintenance prior to the incident.
It also confirmed the airline company had never changed or altered any windshields on the plane.
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Cockpit windshields are typically comprised of several layers, created to deal with air pressure of up to 400 knots and to avoid shattering when striking a bird.
Despite these difficulties and the intense cold, the pilot managed to slow the aircraft from its original speed of about 800-900 kph and land in about 20 minutes. "Luckily his seatbelt was tied".
A video published online by the People's Daily shows oxygen masks deployed, and flight attendants walking up and down the aisle to give passengers instructions on how to disembark. It lasted for about five, six seconds.
Both were taken to hospital, along with 27 flight passengers who claimed to be unwell after the incident.
By Tuesday afternoon, more than 160 million people had viewed or participated in discussions about the pilot on the Twitter-like microblogging platform Weibo.
Social media was quick to pick up on the incident and the airline captain is now being touted a hero on various platforms.
The statement also said all flight crew were in stable condition.