Moment pilot is sucked out of plane

 

The incredible tale of how a British Airways pilot was sucked out of the cockpit mid-flight and survived has resurfaced 30 years on.

Just 27 minutes into flight 5390 from Birmingham, UK, to Malaga, Spain, as the plane was travelling over Oxfordshire, two of the six cockpit windows shattered in what would be one of the most infamous moments in British Airways' history.

The moment the windows shattered, Captain Tim Lancaster was ripped from his seat and sucked out of the window at 23,000 feet (7000 metres).

The force blew the cockpit door from its hinges, nearly knocking flight attendant Nigel Ogden to the ground.

But incredibly, Mr Ogden managed rushed into the cockpit and grab the pilot's legs as he disappeared out of the window.

"I whipped round and saw the front windscreen had disappeared and Tim, the pilot, was going out through it - he had been sucked out of his seatbelt and all I could see were his legs," Mr Ogden later told The Sydney Morning Herald.

 

Quick-thinking cabin crew member Nigel Odgen was hailed a hero.
Quick-thinking cabin crew member Nigel Odgen was hailed a hero.

"I jumped over the control column and grabbed him round his waist to avoid him going out completely.

"His shirt had been pulled off his back and his body was bent upwards, doubled over round the top of the aircraft.

"His legs were jammed forward, disconnecting the autopilot, and the flight door was resting on the controls, sending the plane hurtling down at nearly 650 kilometres per hour through some of the most congested skies in the world."

Mr Ogden was gradually slipping out of the window as he held onto the pilot, but thankfully a second cabin crew member, John Heward, came running into the cockpit and grabbed him by the belt.

 

A re-enactment of the horror in the cockpit.
A re-enactment of the horror in the cockpit.

As well as the captain, the lives of 87 passengers and crew were hanging in the balance.

"I was still holding Tim, but my arms were getting weaker, and then he slipped," Mr Odgen recalled.

"I thought I was going to lose him, but he ended up bent in a U-shape around the windows.

"His face was banging against the window with blood coming out of his nose and the side of his head, his arms were flailing and seemed about six feet (1.8 metres) long.

"Most terrifyingly, his eyes were wide open. I'll never forget that sight as long as I live."

While the co-pilot Alistair Atchinson took over the controls, a second flight attendant Simon scrapped himself into the third pilot's chair and helped to hold on to the chain of men.

"All I can remember is looking at Alastair Atchinson, the co-pilot, struggling to get the plane under control and shouting 'Mayday! Mayday!' into the radio," Mr Ogden told The Sunday Times.

 

The aircraft involved in the 1990 incident. Picture: Wikimedia Commons
The aircraft involved in the 1990 incident. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

"God knows how, but while all this was going on, Alastair managed to get the plane under control.

"I let John take over in the cabin and I ran back to look after the passengers, who had all heard the bang, my poor colleague Sue Prince had been looking after the plane on her own, bless her.

"I screamed: "Brace! Brace!" Everyone knew the seriousness of the situation then.

"The pressure on Alastair must have been tremendous - everybody's life was in his hands. But he brought that plane down perfectly."

The plane landed at Southampton Airport, where they were met by the emergency services.

Incredibly, the pilot suffered several fractures and frostbite, but he survived.

Mr Ogden later left British Airways and went to work for the Salvation Army, but Captain Lancaster flew again.

A re-enactment of Captain Tim Lancaster hanging out the cockpit window while the plane was mid-flight.
A re-enactment of Captain Tim Lancaster hanging out the cockpit window while the plane was mid-flight.

 

According to a report by the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch after the incident, a fitter had used the wrong bolts to secure the windscreen.

The report said that the windscreen-fitting process, which happened 27 hours before the plane took off in June 1990, was "characterised by a series of poor work practices, poor judgments and perceptual errors".

The whole incident was recreated for a documentary called Air Crash Investigation: Blow Out, which aired on the National Geographic Channel in 2005.

Stills from the show recently went viral on social media - 30 years after the accident happened.

 

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission

Originally published as Moment pilot is sucked out of plane



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