A passenger on a Florida-bound charter flight from the U.K. saw the plane was missing a window when the jetliner was thousands of feet in the air, according to investigators. The plane turned around and safely returned to England without anyone onboard suffering any injuries on the early October flight.
Investigators later found that two outer windowpanes were missing and another outer pane and an inner pane were dislodged on the Airbus A321, according to a report released Nov. 3 by the U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
The plane’s cabin didn’t lose pressure during the flight, according to the agency’s report.
The charter flight was heading from London’s Stansted Airport to Orlando International Airport with 11 crew members and nine passengers onboard. The plane was being used for a multiday charter, and everyone onboard either worked for the tour operator or the company that operates the plane.
Several passengers told investigators that after takeoff the cabin “seemed noisier and colder than they were used to,” the report said.
When the flight climbed past an altitude of 10,000 feet, passengers were allowed to unfasten their seat belts. A man walking toward the back of the plane told investigators he noticed the cabin noise getting louder and a window caught his attention.
“He observed that the window seal was flapping in the airflow and the windowpane appeared to have slipped down,” the report says. “He described the cabin noise as ‘loud enough to damage your hearing.'”
The man alerted the crew and the pilots. The aircraft got to an altitude of just over 14,500 feet before the pilots stopped climbing any higher and eventually decided to return to Stansted.
On the day before the flight, a film crew used the plane on the ground with high-powered lights directed toward the plane’s windows for hours, according to the report.
“The windows appear to have sustained thermal damage and distortion because of elevated temperatures while illuminated for approximately four to five and a half hours during filming,” the report found.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
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