British Airways Flight 5390 : Pilots sucked out of an aircraft mid-flight

British Airways Flight 5390:  In the early 1990s British Airways was the world’s leading airline in terms of fleet size and passenger numbers it’s iconic advert around this period proudly boasted they were the world’s favourite airline. One of its most popular destinations in the UK at this time we as Spain due to the number of holiday hotels and resorts that were situated on Spain’s beautiful Mediterranean coastline and its Balearic island.

 So on the morning of June 10th, 1990 at 8:20 am flight 5390 made a routine departure from the British regional airport at Birmingham to the sunny Spanish resort of Malaga. This three-hour flight used a British-built bac-111 series 528 fl jet airliner which was an updated model of a 1960s design and could hold considerably more passengers than the original version. 

British Airways flight 5390 pilot,Alastair Atchison British Airways flight 5390,British Airways flight 5390 10 June 1990,flight 5390 Tim Lancaster
British Airways Flight 5390

The particular aircraft being used on this flight was called the county of south claim organ and had been assigned the callsign speed bird 5390 that day. This aircraft was nearly 20 years old and the model was even due to be phased out of British airways service to be replaced by the much more cost-effective and quieter designs from the airbus and Boeing corporations.

The bac-111 had a good safety record with its most serious accident up until 1990 having occurred in 1969 when a Philippines airlines flight clipped a mango tree on a hilltop while approaching to land causing it to crash and killing 45 of the 47 passengers on board.

On this occasion, after flight 5390 had taken off it went into a steady climb towards its cruising altitude of 23,000 feet. This variant of the bac-111 could carry a total of 119 passengers in the three-two-seat configuration and on this flight, the aircraft was only two-thirds full as this was just the beginning of the British summer holidays season.

Just before 8:30 am both seat belts and no smoking size were turned off and the pilots unbuckled their safety harnesses. The passengers then watched a short presentation perform by the aircrew which included a demonstration on how to use the life jackets and where the emergency exits were located.

Passengers then relaxed for the flight ahead some started to smoke which was allowed on ba flights until 1993, When this entitlement began to be phased out the passengers entertained themselves by reading the in-flight magazines or any books or newspapers they had brought with them. The luxury of an in-flight movie the type projected on a screen at the front of the passenger cabin was not available as this was reserved for long-haul flights like London to New York. 

Soon the breakfast service would begin and despite this being an economy-class flight the passengers were still provided with a morning meal from the exclusive and award-winning la cuisine du Ciel menu which proudly boasted a selection that quote combines the great cooking traditions of British cooking with a range of lighter and innovative continental dishes.

What happened to the British Airways flight 5390?

As flight 5390 crossed the English countryside climbing just above 17,000 feet suddenly and without warning there was a loud bang as one of the flight deck windscreens unexpectedly blew out. The pilot captain Tim Lancaster was forcibly dragged from his seat as the aircraft’s flight deck abruptly decompressed.

Tim Lancaster was sucked heard first through the missing window panel located at the front left of the cockpit by some miracle his legs got caught on the aircraft controls allowing a quick-thinking air steward called Nigel Ogden to grab the captain’s waist and stop him from being dragged out of the aircraft completely.

The time was 8:33 am and flight 5390 had only been airborne for 13 minutes. disaster ensured the remaining flight deck windows fogged up with confession then the flight deck door buckled and flew off its hinges becoming wedged against the throttle control causing the plane to speed up while at the same time entering a rapid descent in one of the busiest commercial flight paths in the world.

Amidst the chaos of the wind howling through the aircraft with personal effects and reading material blowing around the fuselage. The Air steward hurriedly attempted to reassure passengers and instructed them to adopt the emergency landing position. The co-pilot first officer Alastair Atchinson fought with the controls to try to stop the plane from plummeting and instead reached an altitude where the air was breathable as the aircraft carried no oxygen masks for passengers.

With help from the flight crew including lead flight attendant john Heward Atchison managed to bring the aircraft under control at around 11,000 feet, where the cabin pressure stabilized and he engaged the autopilot, he then attempted to make a distress call to air traffic control which due to the excessive wind noise at first proved difficult.

As for captain Tim Lancaster whose body had now slid to the side of the cockpit. He was sticking out of the window from the waist up and already starting to suffer from frostbite. As the plane remained roughly two miles up in the air, where the temperature was about negative 20 degrees celsius with speed as a factor to further complicate things captain Lancaster’s head was being repeatedly struck against the front of the fuselage by the aircraft’s excessive speed.

Another member of the cabin crew Simon Rogers rushed into the flight deck to help Ogden Heward secure the captain. Meanwhile, the stewardess-suit prince had her hands full with distressed passengers. At this it was thought that the captain could be dead there was a real fear that if his body got sucked out it might collide with one of the two aft-mounted engines over the plane’s left wing either scenario potentially resulting in the loss of the plane.

Having finally managed to communicate effectively with ground control first officer Atchison secured an emergency landing slot at Southampton airport and was able to land the plane safely at around 8:55 am. it was only then that captain Lancaster was able to be dragged back into the flight deck.

Amazingly, there were only two casualties on board captain Tim Lancaster who had by some miracle survived was nevertheless badly injured. He had to be hospitalized with frostbite severe bruising shock and fractures to his right arm left thumb and right wrist. The only other casualty was crew member Ogden, who dislocated his shoulder and also suffered some frostbite and had endured a minor injury to one of his eyes.

So what was the cause of this freak accident? an in-depth investigation concluded that the windscreen panel that had blown out had been replaced in a hurry one to two days before the flight departed as part of regularly scheduled maintenance. The bolts used to secure the windshield to the aircraft’s upper nose were found to have all been of slightly incorrect size and thus vulnerable to dislodgement.

The event highlighted that British airways maintenance policies lack the proper quality control checks after any repairs or replacements were carried out. 

First officer Atchison and cabin crew members Susan prince and Nigel Ogden were all awarded the queen’s accommodation for valuable service in the air. It took captain Tim Lancaster five months to recover from his injuries before he could return to work,  he eventually retired from the airline industry in 2008.

As for the county of south glen morgan, it was quickly repaired and returned to service, it was then later sold to a Romanian airline when that airline went bankrupt in 2001. The aircraft was sold for scrap. The last of the 244 bac 111s built was finally retired in 2019.

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