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British Airways Flight 5390 crew held on to captain at 17000feet when windscreen fell out in 1990.

In 1990, the windscreen on British Airways Flight 5390 fell out at 17k feet, causing the cockpit to decompress & its captain to be sucked out of the aircraft. The crew held onto him for more than 20 minutes as the copilot made an emergency landing. The pilot made full recovery. The crew showed incredible resourcefulness during a highly life threatening occurrence. Well done British Airways. 

I believe the window was replaced and the wrong diameter screws were used. Apparently the technician simply compared the new screws with the old ones by eye and thought "close enough." Majority of the bolts securing the window were too narrow: diameter of 84 bolts was 0.026 inches (0.66 mm) too narrow; remaining six were the correct diameter but 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) too short. In essence it was poor practices & supervision.

I thought it was mandatory for flight crew to be strapped in whenever seated at the controls and another thing - I thought it was odd that no pressure test (~10psi) was performed after the window was replaced to at least check for leaks.

Is it really possible that a man can stay alive without oxygen support during the flight around 17000 feet? There is still oxygen at that altitude, just thinner air & less oxygen. A human body becomes hypoxic (oxygen starved) above 10,000ft, so normal breathing, without masks, can take place below that altitude. Above it, hypoxia causes symptoms like being drunk.

This incident has been used in human factors training within the aviation industry, incredible that the pilot survived. The most incredible act of heroism I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some in my day, yet to hang on to someone’s ankles for twenty minutes while their entire life is literately in your hands. Trying to imagine how much strength the person holding on to the captain had.

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British Airways


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