BA pilot was sucked out of cockpit window but lived

Just under 15 minutes into his BA flight from Birmingham to Malaga, two of pilot Tim Lancaster’s cockpit windows shattered. The pilot was violently torn from his seat and sucked out the window.

The 1990 incident occurred at a whopping 17,300 feet high as the plane was travelling over Oxfordshire.

The sheer force of the decompression blew the plane’s cockpit window from its hinges but quick thinking from one flight attendant helped to save the pilot’s life.

Nigel Ogden was almost knocked to the ground by the door but rushed to grab Lancaster’s legs before he flew out the window.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald: “I was just stepping out, with my hand on the door handle, when there was an enormous explosion, and the door was blown out of my hands.

“I thought ‘My God, it’s a bomb’. 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 seat belt and all I could see were his legs.”

The flight attendant jumped over the plane’s control column and grabbed the pilot around his waist.

He added: “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 kmh through some of the most congested skies in the world.”

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Although Nigel was doing his best to keep Tim in the plane, frostbite had started to loosen his grip.

Luckily another flight attendant, John Heward, came to the rescue and grabbed the pilot by his belt.

Nigel said: “I thought I was going to lost 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 long.

“Most terrifyingly, his eyes were wide open. I’ll never forget that sight as long as I live.”

Co-pilot Alistair Atchinson was forced to take the controls as he begged his colleagues not to lose the captain.

Another flight attendant strapped himself to the pilot’s chair and helped to support the chain of men.

Atchinson was able to execute an emergency descent to get back to levels where people onboard were able to breathe. He then prepared for an emergency landing with the captain still out the window.

Nigel said: “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 Alistair must have been tremendous, everybody’s life was in his hands. But he brought that plane down perfectly.”

The plane was able to land at Southampton Airport. Incredibly, Tim Lancaster only suffered fractures, bruising and frostbite. Nigel left the plane with his arm in a sling while all passengers onboard were unharmed.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigations Branch said a fitter had used the wrong bolts to secure the windscreen before the flight. Captain Lancaster returned to flying just five months later while Nigel was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air.

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