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A BA captain was sucked out of a cockpit window in mid-flight 30 years ago and lived to tell the story


Incredible story of the British Airways captain who was sucked out of a cockpit window in mid-flight 30 years ago and still told the story – thanks to a flight attendant holding on to his trouser belt

  • It was June 10, 1990, and the flight crew had performed a routine take-off
  • But then the windshield of the plane blew towards Malaga over Didcot
  • For the next 22 minutes, the crew fought to save the captain – and the aircraft

When it comes to survival against the odds, this one has to be beaten.

Thirty years ago, a British Airways captain was sucked halfway out of his cockpit when a windshield blew out 17,300 feet over Oxfordshire.

He survived because a steward was holding his trouser belt and legs – and thanks to his co-pilot who managed to make an emergency landing.

Thirty years ago, British Airways captain Tim Lancaster was sucked halfway out of his cockpit windshield as it blew over Oxfordshire. This picture was taken after the plane landed safely at Southampton and the blood of Mr Lancaster was clearly visible on the fuselage

Captain Timothy Lancaster (in bed) recovers from his terrible ordeal at Southampton General Hospital. With him are crew members (left to right) Alistair Atchison, John Howard, Nigel Ogden, Susan Prince and Simon Rogers

Captain Timothy Lancaster (in bed) recovers from his terrible ordeal at Southampton General Hospital. With him are crew members (left to right) Alistair Atchison, John Howard, Nigel Ogden, Susan Prince and Simon Rogers

It was June 10, 1990, and the flight crew on the plane headed for Malaga, a BAC-111 aircraft, had previously made a routine take-off from Birmingham.

But then, via Didcot, the left windshield peeled off and flew away, causing a potentially fatal decompression stop.

The air exited the flight deck with such force that the cockpit door was pulled off its hinges and thrown against the throttle, causing the plane to accelerate rapidly as it flew down.

The captain, Tim Lancaster, was half sucked out, his legs caught on the flight controls.

While his first officer, Alastair Atchison, was struggling to control the plane, flight attendant Nigel Ogden, who was stepping onto the flight deck to ask if the pilots wanted refreshments, grabbed Lancaster and held it down with all his might.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lancaster's head hit the hull – the crew were certain he had died.

Mr Ogden told the Sunday Times, "I can only remember Alastair Atchinson, the co-pilot trying to get the plane under control, and" Mayday! Mayday! "Calling. On the radio."

Eventually, with the help of another flight attendant, Simon Rogers, they cleared Mr Lancaster's legs from controls and Mr Atchison was able to make an emergency landing in Southampton without injuring the passengers.

A British Airways captain examines the BAC-111 at Southampton Airport

A British Airways captain examines the BAC-111 at Southampton Airport

It is a miracle that Mr Lancaster survived the 22 minute ordeal.

He was treated in the hospital for a broken arm, frostbite and severe bruising, while Mr. Ogden suffered a shoulder injury and frostbite.

It was later discovered that the windshield had been re-assembled, but with screws that were too small. All 87 bolts flew out as soon as the aircraft gained altitude due to the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the fuselage.

Mr. Atchison received the Polaris Award for Exceptional Aviation and Mr. Ogden received the Queen's Award for Valuable Service in the Air.

Pictures of a National Geographic reconstruction of the incident were recently posted on social media – some find the story too dramatic to believe.

In the world of fiction, James Bond's archenemy Goldfinger died in the 1964 film of the same name when a window of a private jet was raked by gunfire.

He is sucked out of the window feet first while 007 holds part of the interior of the cabin.

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