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10th of June 1990

A British Airways BAC1-11, G-BJRT, was climbing out of Birmingham, England, on its flight to Malaga, Spain on this day in aviation history. Onboard 81 passengers, 4 cabin crew and 2 flight crew. At an altitude of 17.300 feet, a loud bang was observed and the cabin and cockpit filled with decompression mist and the cockpit door was blown onto the pedestal. The Lefthand side windshield had separated from the aircraft, causing an explosive decompression of the aircraft. The time,07.33 am. The captain was partially sucked out of the aircraft through the resulting opening. A cabin crew member who was in the galley area rushed onto the flight deck and grapped the captain by his legs. The purser removed the debris from the flight deck and stored it in the forward toilet.

The cockpit section after the landing and evacuation of the passengers and crew

While the cabin crew member held on to the captain the copilot initiated an emergency descent to FL110 made a mayday call and reengaged the AutoPilot. Communication with ATC was difficult because of the sound of the air rushing in via the missing lefthand windshield. After clearing the debris the purser assisted in holding on to the captain, attempts to pull in the Captain were unsuccessful. A third cabin crewmember relieved the "first responder" as he was losing the strength in his arms. They became convinced the Captain had perished but were instructed by the copilot to hold on to him to prevent the body from causing damage to the lefthand wing, engine or stabiliser. Amazingly during the latter part of the flight the captain, who had initially lost consciousness, kicked his legs making the crew aware that he was still alive! After a 22 minute ordeal, the aircraft made a safe landing at Southampton Airport (England). Emergency service managed to get the Captain onto the flight deck again. Although seriously injured, he was still alive and taken to a local hospital. He was diagnosed with:

  • Fractures in his right arm

  • Fractures in his right wrist

  • Fractured left thumb

  • Bruising

  • Frostbite

  • Shock

But made a full recovery! The windscreen and many of the securing bolts were recovered near the town of Cholsey, Oxfordshire, England.

The window was installed 27-hour prior to the accident flight. It was found, during the investigation, that 84 of the securing bolts were the incorrect part number, with a diameter 0.026" (0.66mm) too small. The other 6 securing bolts were also of the wrong part number, having the correct diameter but they were 0,1" (2.5mm) too short. The investigation concluded that the windscreen fitting process was characterised by a series of poor work practices, poor judgements and perceptual errors, each one of which eroded the factors of safety built into the method of operation promulgated by the operator. A total of 23 factors and 3 casual factors were identified by the investigation as being a factor in the cause of the incident. In its report, the Air Accident Investigation Branch issued 8 safety recommendations. The full accident report is available by clicking here

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