In a startling incident, a plane departing from London’s Stansted Airport for Florida took off with two missing windows, necessitating its return to the Essex airport after a vigilant crew member identified the issue during the flight. The flight, which occurred on October 4, had 11 crew members and nine passengers on board. The incident was attributed to the use of high-powered lights during a filming event, as reported by The Independent.
According to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, this incident had the potential for “more serious consequences.” Subsequent inspection revealed that two cabin windowpanes were missing, and the remaining two were misaligned. The sole component occupying the empty space between the missing windowpanes was a scratch pane, a plastic shield designed to prevent passengers from touching the outer panes.
The aircraft was utilized by the luxury travel firm TCS World Travel, based in the United States, and operated by Titan Airways.
A preliminary report on the incident indicates that the occurrence took place the day following the aircraft’s use for ground filming, during which strong lights were positioned nearby to simulate a sunrise. These lights were directed at the plane’s right side for nearly five and a half hours before shifting to the left side for four hours. The protocol specified that the lights should be placed at a minimum distance of 10 meters from the object they were illuminating, as per the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), but in this case, they were positioned between six and nine meters from the windows that sustained damage.
During the flight, all passengers were seated in the middle section of the aircraft. After takeoff and the deactivation of the seatbelt sign, a crew member proceeded to the rear of the aircraft and noticed that the seal around one of the windows was “flapping,” as reported by the AAIB. Upon making this observation, the crew decided to return to the airport, where the plane landed safely. It’s worth noting that the aircraft had reached an altitude of 14,500 feet, and the report indicates that “the cabin had maintained normal pressurization.”
The report from the government agency also noted that the area surrounding the missing or damaged windows showed that the foam used to secure them had either melted or was absent, and the windowpanes themselves were described as “deformed and shrunken.”