If someone told you that a plane flew with half of its main pilot dangling outside the plane and actually landed successfully, you would never believe it. How can a person even survive being stuck outside the plane, at freezing temperatures, and at that altitude and yet live?
It did happen. Unbelievable as it sounds, it did hecking happen.
On June 10, 1990, British Airways Flight 5390 took off from Birmingham and was headed to Spain. 20 minutes into the flight and the passengers heard a loud bang from the cockpit. The cockpit window had broken away and had almost sucked away the flight pilot Captain Lancaster.
The cockpit windshield just blew away due to a malfunction and the pilot was almost sucked out of the plane.
Flight crew member Nigel Ogden who was in the cabin at the time did some quick thinking and caught hold of the pilot’s legs. He hooked his own legs on a chair to anchor himself so that he would not be sucked away too.
Because the windscreen was blown away, the door between the cockpit and the rest of the plane also blew away. Simon Rogers, another crew member also rushed to hold Captain Lancaster from flying away. Now there were two people holding Captain from flying away.
Because there was a gaping hole in the aircraft now, there was rapid decompression. And two of the flight crew were busy hanging on to the captain. One female stewardess had broken down and was crying.
The calm passengers took control and tried to calm the other passengers down.
In all this panic, Co-pilot Alistair Atcheson put on the oxygen mask on and took charge of all the 81 passengers on the plane. He told passengers to fasten their seatbelts and prepare for an emergency landing at the Southhampton Airport.
We have to remember that the plane was flying at almost 800 kilometers per hour and Captain Lancaster was probably frostbitten or dead half-hanging outside the plane. Because of the velocity and the big hole in the fuselage, a lot of debris was still swirling inside the cockpit. This interfered with co-pilot Atcheson’s vision. He kept his cool and requested to land on the Southampton Airport.
The twist in the story – it took Atcheson several minutes to get the green light from Southampton Airport to land. But Atcheson did successfully land the plane after almost 35 minutes of hell for everyone on the plane.
As for Captain Lancaster – he suffered a few fractures and a frostbite on his right hand but was pretty ok after the hellish flight he had been on.
The other injuries? Nigel Ogden, the steward who held Captain Lancaster for the whole duration injured his hand while trying to pull the Captain down.
Otherwise, every person on that flight more or less survived without any lasting harm.
The whole incident was a lesson in teamwork. Crew members held the their leader from flying away into sure death while the co-pilot made sure that the plane landed safely. The other passengers managed each other so that there was no panic.
Now you know how to react in an emergency – a cool and calm mind and teamwork!