Terrifying Moment Pilot Sucked Out Of Plane At 17,000ft As Crew Held Onto His Ankles

The bizarre story of a pilot getting sucked out of a plane window while the cabin crew held on to his ankles has gone viral.
Credit: @mrwtffacts/X

The bizarre story of a pilot getting sucked out of a plane window while the cabin crew held on to his ankles has gone viral.

Many of us have a fear of flying.

There’s just something about speeding through the skies in a heavy metal structure that feels unnatural – and therefore dangerous.

But typically, pilots manage to keep things safe and sound.

However, one story of a pilot who found himself in an incredibly dangerous situation is leaving many on the internet feeling scarred for life…

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One person writes: “Gosh, is this real? It’s actually made me feel sick reading this, how on earth, with lack of oxygen was he able to breathe?”

“I read a while ago that they thought he was dead and only held on to his body to stop it going in the engine,” another adds.

The story takes place on British Airways Flight 5390 in June 1990.

The flight was from Birmingham, England, to Malaga, Spain. It was carrying 81 passengers and was flying at an altitude of 17,300 feet.

But things did not go as planned, as shortly after takeoff disaster struck.

Captain Tim Lancaster being sucked out of cockpit window.
Disaster struck just 13 minutes after takeoff. Credit: @mrwtffacts/X

A windscreen panel blew out of the aircraft, creating a vacuum in the cockpit.

And because of this, the plane’s pilot, Captain Tim Lancaster, was sucked out through the window – and was only saved by quick-thinking cabin crew who gripped onto his ankles.

Lancaster was pinned against the exterior of the plane with his feet held in the cockpit’s controls.

However, because the pilot was no longer flying the plane, the vehicle went straight into a nosedive.

“I whipped round and saw the front windscreen had disappeared and Tim, the pilot, was going out through it. He had been sucked out of his seatbelt and all I could see were his legs,” flight attendant Nigel Ogden told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Ogden went on: “I jumped over the control column and grabbed him round his waist to avoid him going out completely. His shirt had been pulled off his back and his body was bent upwards, doubled over round the top of the aircraft.”

He claims he was ‘holding on for grim death’ but could feel himself being sucked out too.

Captain Tim Lancaster (standing centre).
Captain Tim Lancaster (standing centre) was partially sucked out of his cockpit window. Credit: Alamy

There was a huge drop in air pressure in the cabin, plus the temperature was below freezing.

Ogden also points out that the noise of the air made it impossible for the plane to contact air traffic control.

He continued: “I was still holding on to Tim but the pressure made him weigh the equivalent of 500 pounds [about 200 kilograms]. It was a good thing I’d had so much training at rugby tackles, but my arms were getting colder and colder and I could feel them being pulled out of their sockets.”

Horrifyingly, Ogden could see Lancaster’s face during this whole ordeal.

“His face was banging against the window with blood coming out of his nose and the side of his head, his arms were flailing … Most terrifyingly, his eyes were wide open. I’ll never forget that sight as long as I live,” he recalled.

Ogden believed Lancaster had died, but refused to let him go, both to save his body for his family and to prevent Lancaster from flying into the plane’s engine and jeopardising the flight.

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The flight’s copilot, Alastair Atchison, eventually landed the plane at Southhampton Airport after flying with Lancaster out of the window for twenty minutes.

It was after this landing that Ogden discovered Lancaster had, incredibly, survived.

“He was lying there, covered in blood, but to my amazement, I heard him say: ‘I want to eat’. I just exclaimed: ‘Typical bloody pilot’. Luckily, he’d been in a coma throughout the ordeal, his body had just shut down. I went out onto the front steps and shouted at the others ‘He’s alive!’ and then I cried my eyes out.”

Amazingly, Captain Tim Lancaster suffered only frostbite, a fractured elbow, thumb, and wrist, as well as some bruising and shock.

A UK government investigation into the incident later revealed that the wrong bolts were used to install the windshield, just 27 hours before the flight took off.

The crew who saved the flight, the passengers, and (unbelievably) the pilot were awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air, a civilian honour in the UK.

Even more incredibly, Lancaster made a return to his job as a pilot just months after his accident.

He would go on to retire in 2008.

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Written by Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a content editor at IGV who specialises in trending, lifestyle and entertainment news. She graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a degree in English Literature. Annie has previously worked with organisations such as The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Harvard University, the Pulitzer Prize and 22 Words.