Public demands explanation for Sichuan Airlines flight accident
China's aviation regulators said Tuesday that the investigation into the peeling off of a plane's windshield, which caused a co-pilot to be "nearly sucked halfway" in mid-air, will focus on the design and manufacturing process of the window, while the public has called for a clear explanation of the incident that threatened the lives of 119 passengers.
Sichuan Airlines flight 3U8633 made an emergency landing at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport at around 7:40 a.m. on Monday when the windshield blew out en route from Chongqing to Lhasa, capital city of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.
The sudden shattering of the glass is still being investigated, and the French headquarters of planemaker Airbus has sent a group of technicians to aid in the investigation, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The windshield has no record of malfunctions since the plane was put into use in July 2011, Tang Weibin, Director General of CAAC's Office of Aviation Safety, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The plane's windshield has never been replaced, nor did it receive maintenance, Tang said at the press conference.
A preliminary investigation found that the right side of the cockpit windshield as well as one third of the right side of the plane's flight control unit had fallen off, the CAAC said.
CAAC's Southwest Regional Administration on Monday ordered other airlines to be mindful of such incidents. It also ordered maintenance crews to check the same components used on other planes.
The captain of flight 3U8633, who safely landed the plane when temperatures dropped to -40 C in the cockpit, is in stable condition and the co-pilot, half of whose body was sucked outside the plane after the windshield fell off, was being treated for skin abrasions, Sichuan Airlines said.
Apart from mounting praise, many expressed concern about the cause of the incident.
Sichuan Airlines apologized in a statement released at 3:00 am on Tuesday, while online comments requiring the company to conduct a thorough investigation on the cause of the incident flooded its Sina Weibo page.
"The reason must be disclosed to the public in a clear manner, be it negligence of maintenance personnel or a quality control issue. There's no such thing as permanent luck," wrote a Weibo user.
This is the first such case in China, as the captain had to simultaneously battle through huge noise, equipment malfunction and a change in cabin pressure, Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times.
Reports said the 119 passengers came out of the ordeal unscathed.
The glass incident occurred in the pilot's cabin, which made the landing more difficult as the strong airflow, which could hit 500 kilometers per hour, came directly at the pilots, who could not even stand properly and hear each other's voice, Wang said.