Although airplanes typically undergo thorough inspections before each flight, one aircraft with ties to British royalty recently took to the skies with a glaring problem: two of its windows were gone.
According to reports, the Airbus A321 plane was cleared for takeoff early last month from London Stansted Airport and reached an altitude of 14,500 feet before the crew noticed the issue.
— New York Post (@nypost) November 9, 2023
A total of 20 people — 11 crew members and nine passengers — were aboard the plane, which was being operated by Titan Airways, during the ill-fated Oct. 4 flight. Fortunately, the plane was able to return to the airport without any reported injuries.
The two missing windows were reportedly damaged the day before the flight when high-intensity lights were used in close proximity to the plane during a film shoot. Investigators noted that the stage lights had been used to “give the impression of a sunrise” and were placed closer to the plane and for a longer period of time than recommended.
As a result, the foam and other materials that kept the windows in place had apparently melted, according to an Air Accidents Investigations Branch report.
Although no one aboard noticed anything amiss before the plane took off, one crew member reportedly heard the noise of a loose seal that investigators said was “loud enough to damage your hearing.”
Shortly thereafter, the plane, which was destined for the United States, was rerouted back to London. As the AAIB noted, everyone aboard was fortunate that the incident did not take a more destructive turn.
“Whereas in this case the damage became apparent at around [10,000 feet altitude] and the flight was concluded uneventfully, a different level of damage by the same means might have resulted in more serious consequences, especially if window integrity was lost at higher differential pressure,” the agency concluded.
Prior to its status as a private aircraft, the plane had been used to transport King Charles and Queen Camilla during a state visit to France. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had also used the same aircraft for official travel.