Sichuan Airlines Airbus's co-pilot was sucked halfway after a cockpit windshield blew out forcing an emergency landing. One pilot suffered an ear injury, while a number of passengers suffered from lack of oxygen and tinnitus. Radio contact was impossible, because of noise, so the crew adjusted the transponder to 7700 [the emergency code].
Monday's incident didn't result in the worst-case scenario, but it may still shake some passengers' confidence in an industry that has statistically speaking never been safer.
According to data from Flightradar24, Flight 3U8633 departed Chongqing at approximately 6.30am on Monday morning. A separate report said the aircraft had accumulated 19,912 flight hours since entering service at Sichuan Airlines in July 2011.
The most popular chat forum on the incident was titled "My Hero Captain".
Reuters quoted the captain as saying, "everything in the cockpit was floating in the air". The co-pilot and a flight attendant suffered injuries as the right-side windshield broke, damaging some equipment in the A319's cockpit as the jet lost cabin pressure.
The captain said his co-pilot was partly "sucked out of the broken windshield".
"The windshield has not recorded any failures, nor did it require any maintenance and replacement work" before the incident, Tang Weibin said.
Moving forward, Chinese authorities reported that the company is cooperating with the investigation, which Airbus representatives also confirmed to Fox News.
Cockpit windshields are typically comprised of several layers, created to deal with air pressure of up to 400 knots and to avoid shattering when striking a bird.
The flight was diverted to the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.
The video, filmed in Flight 3U8633 from Chongqing to Lhasa on May 14, shows passengers using oxygen masks and a flight attendant saying: "Those exits can not be opened" and "Be safe".
One passenger told the China Youth Daily that he was sleeping when the incident happened. People were shocked and started screaming, and some even started vomiting. "It leads to a loss of air in the cabin and the oxygen masks will fall", he said.
Most of the passengers were discharged shortly after. In Chengdu, they switched to another aircraft and continued their journey to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. One other member of cabin crew was injured in the descent, but none of the 119 passengers were hurt.