Pi­lot still shaken by shat­tered win­dow

Train­ing, ex­pe­ri­ence were key to sur­viv­ing trau­matic episode in air

China Daily - - CHINA - By HUANG ZHILING and YANG YI in Chengdu Luo Wang­shu contributed to this story. Con­tact the writ­ers at huangzhiling@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Airline cap­tain Liu Chuan­jian has a stern face and is ex­pres­sion­less most of the time. So the re­cent trauma doesn’t show. But he ad­mits that he has not yet re­cov­ered from an emer­gency land­ing on Mon­day.

The 46-year-old pi­lot was in com­mand of Sichuan Air­lines Flight 3U8633, which took off from Chongqing Jiang­bei In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Chongqing mu­nic­i­pal­ity at 6:26 am and was due in Lhasa, Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion, at 9:05 am.

At around 7 am, about 100 kilo­me­ters into the jour­ney, Liu and co-pi­lot Xu Ruicheng heard a loud bang. They both shouted with alarm when they saw cracks in the wind­shield.

After feel­ing the cracks, Liu asked air traf­fic con­trollers for per­mis­sion to re­turn to the air­port. But less than a minute later, the wind­shield shat­tered. The cabin de­com­pressed, and co-pi­lot Xu was sucked half­way out the win­dow.

“I was afraid and tried in vain to pull him in­side,” Liu said. “He was far from me.”

Most of the equip­ment on the air­craft mal­func­tioned. Liu could not hear the ra­dio or fel­low crew mem­bers.

There was a short­age of oxy­gen and the tem­per­a­ture was -40 C. Liu didn’t no­tice the bit­ing cold be­cause he was pre­oc­cu­pied with land­ing the air­craft.

He felt more at ease after dis­cov­er­ing he could op­er­ate the plane man­u­ally. “I had con­fi­dence I could land the air­craft safely be­cause I had flown more than 100 times along the route,” he said.

He ad­mit­ted to be­ing trou­bled by the speed of land­ing. “There was in­ad­e­quate air and it was very cold at high al­ti­tude. But if I low­ered the air­craft too quickly, the force of the im­pact would en­dan­ger the crew,” Liu said.

He was able to make an emer­gency land­ing at Chengdu Shuan­gliu In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince, about 45 min­utes after the in­ci­dent, sav­ing all 119 pas­sen­gers and nine crew mem­bers aboard, in­clud­ing Xu, who is re­cov­er­ing in hos­pi­tal.

At 6:30 pm on Tues­day, Liu’s wife Zou Han, an avi­a­tion teacher at Chongqing Uni­ver­sity of Ed­u­ca­tion, took a bul­let train from Chongqing to Chengdu. She ar­rived by car at Sichuan Air­lines three hours later. She opened the door of the ve­hi­cle and raced to her hus­band, hold­ing him tear­fully and speech­lessly.

Liu grad­u­ated from an Air Force flight school of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army in 1995 and had taught pi­lots for 11 years be­fore he went to work at Sichuan Air­lines in 2006.

As a stu­dent, he was trained how to han­dle a shat­tered wind­shield, and as a teacher passed his knowl­edge along to prospec­tive pi­lots.

Liu was born into an or­di­nary fam­ily in Chongqing, where his fa­ther worked in a ce­ment plant and his mother was a farmer.

HUANG ZHILING / CHINA DAILY

Pi­lot Liu Chuan­jian (left) and with crew mem­bers of Sichuan Air­lines Flight 3U8633 meet with the me­dia in Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince, on Thurs­day.

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