A passenger on a charter flight to Florida from the United Kingdom found the plane was missing a window while the airliner was thousands of feet in the air, according to investigators. The plane turned around and returned safely to England with no one on board injured during the flight in early October.
Investigators later discovered that two exterior windows were missing and another exterior window and an interior window had been dislodged on the Airbus A321, according to a report released Nov. 3 by Britain’s Air Accident Investigation Branch.
The plane’s cabin did not lose pressure during the flight, according to the agency’s report.
The charter flight was heading from London Stansted Airport to Orlando International Airport with 11 crew members and nine passengers on board. The plane was being used for a multi-day charter and everyone on board worked either for the tour operator or the company operating the plane.
Several passengers told investigators that after takeoff, the cabin “seemed noisier and colder than usual,” according to the report.
When the plane exceeded an altitude of 10,000 feet, the passengers were allowed to unbuckle their seat belts. A man walking toward the rear of the plane told investigators he noticed cabin noise getting louder and a window caught his attention.
“He observed that the window seal was rattling due to the airflow and that the glass appeared to have slipped,” the report states. “He described the noise from the cabin as being ‘loud enough to damage your hearing’.”
The man alerted the crew and pilots. The plane reached an altitude of just over 14,500 feet before the pilots stopped climbing any higher and eventually decided to return to Stansted.
The day before the flight, a film crew grounded the plane with powerful lights shining into the plane’s windows for hours, according to the report.
“The windows appear to have suffered thermal damage and distortion due to high temperatures while they were illuminated for approximately four to five and a half hours during filming,” the report said.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
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