An Airbus A321 left London Stansted Airport last month with two missing window panes and two damaged window panes.
The flight, which was headed to Orlando International Airport, had 11 crew members and 9 passengers on board. According to UK air accident investigators, the window damage was caused by high-voltage lights that were used during a filming event the previous day.
By the time the aircraft turned around, it had already reached an altitude of 14,000 feet. Not long afterward, the plane safely returned to Stansted Airport.
The report by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch stated that the results could have been much more “serious” if the aircraft lost “window integrity” at a higher altitude.
After taking off at the airport, many passengers noticed that it was much “colder and noisier” than what they were used to.
After the seatbelt signs turned off, the loadmaster, who also noticed the “increased noise” in the cabin, made their way to the back of the plane, where he noticed one of the windows had a damaged seal that was “flapping in the air.”
He immediately notified the cabin crew, who alerted the commander.
While the aircraft did not have any “abnormal indications”, the commander decided to stop their ascent. They proceeded to reduce the aircraft’s speed while the third pilot and an engineer inspected the damaged window.
After inspecting the window, the crew agreed that it would be best to go back to Stansted Airport. As for the passengers, they were told to remain seated until the plane landed.
It wasn’t until they were back on the ground that they discovered the full extent of the window damage. Once the passengers had gotten off the aircraft, and the plane had been shut down, the crew began to inspect the area from the outside. It was then that they discovered two window panes were completely missing and that another had been partially dislodged.
One of the outer panes was later discovered, shattered, during a ‘routine runway inspection’. A fourth damaged window was also found.
The bulletin added that the four damaged windows were next to each other, near the left overwing exit.
According to the AAIB, the windows may have been damaged and distorted due to increased temperatures when the plane was used for a filming event the day before.
They will continue their investigation of the incident to ‘fully understand the properties of the lights’ so that it could be prevented in the future.