Flight Forced Into Emergency Landing After Passengers Notice Broken Windows The charter flight did not reach maximum altitude before returning to the ground.
Passengers on a charter flight from London Stansted Airport on October 6 were in for a chilly surprise when windowpanes were discovered missing after takeoff, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.
According to a report filed by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, Airbus A321 left the airport for a multi-day charter with nine passengers, six cabin crew, and three pilots. There was also an engineer and loadmaster onboard.
However, before the plane reached maximum altitude, the passengers noticed something was awry.
"Several passengers recalled that after takeoff the aircraft cabin seemed noisier and colder than they were used to," the report stated. "[The loadmaster] noticed the increased cabin noise as he approached the overwing exits and his attention was drawn to a cabin window on the left side of the aircraft. He observed that the window seal was flapping in the airflow and the windowpane appeared to have slipped down."
A protruded window that was missing panels (Air Accidents Investigations Branch)
The loadmaster said the noise coming from the window was "loud enough to damage your hearing" and informed the cabin crew and flight deck, who then decided to fly back down to Stansted. The total flight time was just 36 minutes.
Upon landing and inspection, it was found that two windowpanes were missing, and a third was dislodged.
The AAIB concluded that the windows "sustained thermal damage and distortion" due to elevated temperatures. The plane was also used for a filming event, which had the plane's lights running for four to five and a half hours straight.
The damaged windows that were investigated after landing (Air Accidents Investigations Branch)
"A different level of damage by the same means might have resulted in more serious consequences, especially if window integrity was lost at higher differential pressure," the AIIB concluded.
The agency said that it is still investigating.