HONG KONG — A Sichuan Airlines plane heading for Tibet made an emergency landing Monday after its windshield shattered and a co-pilot was partially sucked out of the cockpit, the local news media reported.
Flight 8633 left the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing at 6:26 a.m. and was scheduled to land at 9:05 a.m. in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, around 1,500 miles west, according to the flight tracking website FlightView.com.
But the windshield later “shattered with a loud sound” the pilot, Liu Chuanjian, said in a video posted by the news outlet Chengdu Business News. “When I looked over to my side, half of my co-pilot’s body was hanging out of the window.”
“Fortunately, he was wearing a seat belt,” Liu said.
The plane made an emergency landing at 7:42 a.m. in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu.
Later Monday, Sichuan Airlines said in a post on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, that 29 of the plane’s 119 passengers were sent to a hospital for examination. One cabin crew member was being treated for a waist injury and the first officer suffered scratches, but the remaining passengers were discharged, the post said.
Many Chinese social media users lauded the pilots as heroes and encouraged the airline to reward them.
“Sichuan Airline pilot, you rule!” one wrote.
“Give the pilot a raise!” another user commented below the Sichuan Airline post. “Give the first officer a paid vacation!”
The pilot’s deft handling of the incident draw praise for the company. “If I have the chance, I will definitely take this airline,” one commenter wrote.
Others remained skeptical of the airline’s portrayal of the incident. “The pilot is indeed awesome, but why is this the only thing broadcast?” one user asked. “This clearly is Sichuan Airlines’ accident. Sichuan Airlines’ public relations team is quite clever at crisis management.”
China’s aviation institutions are known to be especially risk-averse. Flights at major Chinese airports, for example, are typically spaced farther apart than they would be in Europe or the United States to minimize the chances of an accident — a precaution that increases flight delays.
The Sichuan Airlines incident is at least the world’s second broken-window incident of the year aboard a commercial plane.
In April, when an engine exploded in midair on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas, a gust of shrapnel blew out a window in the cabin and partially sucked a 43-year-old woman headfirst into the sky.
She was dragged back into the plane but later pronounced dead from what medical examiners called blunt trauma to her head, neck and torso. Seven others on that flight suffered minor injuries.