(TheConservativeTimes.org) – On October 4th, an Airbus A321 passenger plane climbed to 10,000 feet before anyone discovered that the plane had a major problem: it was missing two windows.
A spokesperson from the United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the Airbus took off from the runway at London Stansted Airport and was on its way to Orlando International Airport. While no one noticed that two windowpanes were missing, the flight “concluded uneventfully” after the pilots turned around and headed back to London to land.
After the plane was airborne, passengers noticed that the inside of the plane was colder than usual, and the noise level was unusually high when the seatbelt sign turned off when the plane reached 10,000 feet.
The plane’s cargo loadmaster noticed that one of the seals on the window was “flapping in the airflow.” The loadmaster notified the three pilots and the rest of the crew, prompting the pilots to slow the plane and level off at 14,000 feet. Strangely, the plane’s cabin pressurization appeared to be normal and nothing seemed obviously out of the ordinary.
After a pilot and the plane’s engineer inspected the windows, they decided to plane turn around and fly back to London. The Airbus A321 was only in the air for 36 minutes before it returned to the runway.
After landing and a ground inspection, staff discovered that two windows had only what are called “scratch panes” within the frames. A scratch pane is a transparent plastic barrier that stops passengers from touching the inner and outer panes of the window that actually seal the cabin in order to allow it to be pressurized. Ground crews discovered that two windows were missing their usual pressurization panes located on the outside of the aircraft. They also found that rubber seals were missing. A third window was missing both its rubber seal and its inner pressurization pane.
The Airbus A321 was used for filming the day before the passenger flight, exposing the aircraft for 5 ½ hours to high-powered lights. The UK’s AAIB said the plane suffered heat damage from the high temperature of the lights, which warped the window panes and likely caused them to fall off. There was also damage near an emergency exit.
Fortunately, the AAIB wrote that the staff noticed the missing windows at 10,000 feet, which is the maximum height commercial planes can fly at before the cabin must be pressurized to allow passengers to breathe. The inner scratch panes cannot contain the pressurized atmosphere in the cabin by themselves, and if the plane had climbed much higher, they likely would have blown out entirely.
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