Plane lost windshield in mid-air

An aircraft of United Airways (BD) Ltd on domestic flight has narrowly escaped a crash, which almost happened when a part of its windshield blew away in mid-air, at an altitude of 9,000 feet.

The incident left the co-pilot seriously injured. He sustained cuts and bruises on the face, arms, neck and eyelids.

The 66-seater ATR 72-200 had taken off from Jessore airport for Dhaka with around 10 passengers and crew members at 8:30pm on August 13.

But things went wrong when the co-pilot side of the front windshield blew away and all the loose items in the plane were being sucked out of the cockpit. The aircraft was 25 nautical miles from its destination.

However, the pilot managed to manoeuvre the aircraft and safely landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport around 9:15pm. The airport was kept on red alert at the time with fire engines and ambulance ready for any disaster.

The injured co-pilot was rushed to a city hospital.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) on Monday formed a three-member committee to investigate the accident. The committee was asked to submit its report within the next two weeks, said a top Caab official seeking anonymity.

According to aviation experts, such damages usually lead to fatal accidents, but in this case no serious consequences occurred as the aircraft maintained the minimum altitude.

“If there was any leakage on the plane, disaster would have been inevitable,” said a pilot who has several thousand hours of flying experience. He suspects the cabin pressure differentiation might have caused the damage.

But according to sources, the airlines authorities stuck to the decision of operating the flight despite detecting a crack on the windshield prior to take-off.

ATM Nazrul Islam, director business development and company secretary of the airline, however, denied any lack of maintenance.

An investigation was going on and the reason behind the accident would soon come to light, he said, adding that the very plane is now in operation after a repair within 24 hours.

Talking about the blood chilling experience, a passenger of the flight said, “I suddenly heard a bang and there were frequent turbulences. Soon the plane was filled with fog and I could hear something breaking.”

“I could feel that the aircraft was flying with its nose slightly down,” said the passenger, who works for an aid organisation, on Sunday.

“After a little while, the fog slightly cleared out and I saw a crew, who with all his effort opened the cockpit door, on which there was another broken part of a door. He beckoned a flight attendant to him and had a little talk with the cabin crew. Then he disappeared in the cockpit, but only to return with the injured co-pilot,” he added.

The injured man was bleeding profusely from a wound on the face, continued the passenger, seeing this, the two female air hostesses cried out loudly, but the first officer asked them to calm down and put some ice on the wound.

“As for me, I thought this was my end. Faces of my parents and siblings flashed before my eyes,” he said, adding that it took him two days to shake off the horrible memory and get back to normal life.

Meanwhile, the passengers who went to Jessore on another flight of United Airways on August 11 alleged that the air cooling system on that flight was barely working.

About this, Nazrul Islam said the journey from Dhaka to Jessore takes only half an hour. It might happen thus that the air cooling system did not get enough time to cool the whole cabin.