British pilot nearly sucked from plane

June 10, 1990
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LONDON -- A British Airways pilot was nearly sucked out of a jet bound for Spain when a cockpit window shattered Sunday, causing the aircraft to lose pressure and forcing an emergency landing, officials said.

A British Airways spokesman said Capt. Tim Lancaster, 41, was injured while flying 81 passengers on BA flight 5390 from Birmingham, 118 miles northwest of London, to Malaga, Spain.

The plane had climbed to about 24,000 feet when the window blew out of the flight deck at 8:40 a.m., about 20 minutes after takeoff from Midlands International Airport.

The quick pressure drop aboard the BAC-111 aircraft pulled Lancaster's upper body out of the broken window, but crew members grabbed hold of the captain and struggled to pull him back in, the spokesman said.

'One of the cabin crew went straight to the flight deck, where he managed to grab ahold of the captain, whose head and shoulders I believe were out the window,' the BA spokesman said.

'A second steward, Simon Rogers, strapped himself into the captain's seat and restrained the captain while the first officer undertook the landing,' he said.

The spokesman said co-pilot Alistair Atchison, 39, took control and radioed a Mayday message to Eastleigh Airport in Southampton, about 76 miles southwest of London. Atchison brought the plane down safely at Eastleigh at 9 a.m., the spokesman said.

Lancaster was listed in comfortable condition at Southampton Hospital, where he was being treated for a fractured elbow, wrist and thumb, frostbite to one hand and shock, the spokesman said.

The loss of pressure affected only the cockpit area, but six passengers and crew members were treated for shock and released from the hospital. Seventy-seven passengers continued their journey to Malaga aboard another aircraft, British Airways said.

Civil Aviation investigators were examining the aircraft to learn what caused the window to shatter.

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