December 2, 2008 | Barb Carr

Airliner Lands Safely At KC Airport With Shattered Windshield… is this an incident, near miss, or just a write up?

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An airliner with a shattered windshield landed safely at Kansas City’s airport. Causes are not known yet and there were no injuries reported. If you were called out today to investigate this write-up to what level of detail would you dig to get to the root causes? First, you probably would need to classify the “incident”….. anybody hurt? …. damage $$$ to aircraft? …. amount of downtime? …. media coverage and damage control?

After further review of the plane… no damage to the airframe….. window not too expensive for an airplane….. low risk to bad publicity with a safe landing…. no bird strike evidence…. maybe it was ice? Looks low risk enough to use “apparent cause”.

But what could have happened if the window had completely shattered and blown out……..

Two incidents in history where the person survived:

Passenger sucked partially out of plane…with his legs and left arm inside the plane, Fogg fought to break free from the intense suction and 200-mph winds. Read more about this incident here. …. just for clarification people aren’t sucked out of airplanes, they are blown out (greater pressure inside the aircraft pushing out of a lower pressure world).

The left windscreen, which had been replaced prior to the flight, was blown out under effects of the cabin pressure when it overcame the retention of the securing bolts, 84 of which, out of a total of 90, were of smaller than specified diameter. The commander was sucked halfway out of the windscreen aperture and was restrained by cabin crew whilst the co-pilot flew the aircraft to a safe landing at Southampton Airport. Read more about this incident here.

One where the person did not survive:

…..Pieces struck the fuselage, breaking a window, causing rapid explosive decompression and a passenger was sucked out of the plane. The plane landed safely. The captain and flight engineer were experimenting with the autothrottle system by tripping the circuit breakers which supplied the instruments which measured the rotational speed of each engine’s low pressure compressor. This led to engine overspeeding and destruction of the engine. Read more about this incident here.

Why the article you ask? It is obvious that a window shattering needs a thorough investigation on an airplane… isn’t it? How many write-ups have you seen where people did not lock out an electrical system properly or a tool came in contact with a live-circuit and melted, but the investigation was left to an “apparent cause” tool to resolve? How long does it take before an electrocution? If you would like to learn more on proactive root cause analysis and risk prioritization make sure to attend our TapRooT® in Nashville in 2009.

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