A plane flying from London to Orlando, Fla., last month was forced to turn around because some windowpanes were missing or damaged, startling passengers who had reported hearing roaring sounds inside the cabin, the authorities said.
The plane, an Airbus A321, had four damaged windowpanes, including two that were completely missing, as it took off from London Stansted Airport on Oct. 4, according to a report published last week by the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
There were no injuries aboard the flight, which had 11 crew members and nine passengers who sat in the middle of the aircraft and who were all employees of a “tour company or the aircraft’s operating company,” the authorities said.
The names of the companies were not listed in the report.
After takeoff, some passengers remarked that “the aircraft cabin seemed noisier and colder than they were used to,” according to the report. Someone who walked toward the back of the plane noticed a loud noise and saw that a window seal was flapping and that the windowpane appeared to have slipped down.
That passenger described the cabin noise to an investigator as “loud enough to damage your hearing,” the report states.
Cabin crew members were informed, and after further inspection of the window, they agreed to return the aircraft to Stansted.
The plane remained normally pressurized throughout the 36-minute flight, investigators said.
Once the plane landed, crew members found the three other damaged window panes.
The report said that a day before the flight, the aircraft had been used for filming on the ground and that external lights had been shined onto it for more than five hours “to give the illusion of a sunrise,” the authorities said.
But the hot lights caused thermal damage and distortion to the windows, the authorities said.
The report warned that while the episode had ended “uneventfully,” a more severe level of damage “might have resulted in more serious consequences, especially if window integrity was lost at higher differential pressure.”
In 2018, one person was killed on a Southwest Airlines flight from New York to Dallas when an engine exploded in midair, shattering a window and causing a woman to be pulled partway out of the aircraft, resulting in fatal injuries.
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