On June 20, 1990, British Airways Flight 5390 was scheduled to fly from Birmingham to Malaga. Captain Tim Lancaster, an experienced pilot with over 11,000 flight hours, was in charge of the flight, along with his co-pilot, Alistair Atchison. Unfortunately, this flight would be far from routine.
Just 13 minutes into the flight, the cockpit window shattered, causing Tim to be sucked out of the plane at an altitude of 17,300 feet (5,300 m). Nigel Ogden, one of the cabin crew members, bravely held onto Tim’s ankles to prevent him from being completely sucked out of the plane. The co-pilot took over control of the aircraft and began a rapid descent to a lower altitude.
Tim’s body was bent upwards, doubled over the top of the plane, in a U-shape around the windows. His face repeatedly hit the structure, causing blood to come out of his nose and the side of his head. Nigel’s arms were weakening, and he was getting frostbite. A second flight attendant, John Heward, arrived on the scene and grabbed onto Tim’s belt, ensuring he would not be lost out of the window.
The co-pilot successfully landed the plane at Southampton Airport, and Tim was rushed to the hospital. Remarkably, he survived the ordeal, with a number of fractures and bruises, alongside frostbite. All passengers on the flight were unharmed.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch later discovered that a fitter had used the wrong bolts to secure the windscreen 27 hours before the flight, causing it to shatter. This incident prompted a change in safety procedures, leading to a thorough inspection of bolts and screws before every flight.
Despite his brush with death, Tim Lancaster did not let the incident prevent him from flying again. He went on to work for British Airways for several more years, inspiring others with his incredible story of survival. Tim’s courage and the bravery of Nigel Ogden and John Heward will always be remembered as a remarkable example of human resilience and the power of teamwork in the face of adversity.\