A Sichuan Airlines flight made an emergency landing on Monday, after the cockpit windshield abruptly broke, pulling the co-pilot partially out of the Airbus A319.
The co-pilot suffered minor injuries, as did another member of the crew, but no passengers were injured. The pilot brought the plane down safely, landing in the city of Chengdu.
The flight had originally been traveling from Chongqing to Lhasa, Tibet.
The pilot, Liu Chuanjian, has been called a hero for the dramatic landing. He described the accident in a news briefing on Monday.
"There was no sign before the windshield burst. Just a huge noise," Liu said, according to a translation from China's state-owned China News Service. "When I looked at the other side, the co-pilot was partially blown out of the aircraft."
The co-pilot was wearing his seatbelt, and the crew was able to pull him back inside. But losing the windshield meant the abrupt loss of pressure and oxygen, not to mention a shocking temperature drop.
The South China Morning Post reports that the decompression caused cockpit equipment to malfunction, the deafening noise kept Liu from hearing the radio, and the shaking of the plane made it difficult to read the flight instruments.
But he flew the plane manually and landed it safely.
Reuters provides some context for the unusual accident:
"Incidents involving cracked windshields do happen on a regular basis due to occurrences such as bird or lightning strikes but ones involving entire windshields coming off are rare.
"In 1990, one of the pilots on British Airways Flight 5390 was blown partially out of the cabin window after its windshield blew out at 23,000 feet. He survived the incident, which occurred on a BAC-111 jet.