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Bizarre: Airbus Jet Loses Three Windows After Takeoff

Well here’s something you (fortunately) don’t see every day… an Airbus jet lost a few windows after takeoff, in what has to be one of the most bizarre incidents we’ve seen in quite some time.

Titan Airways A321LR returns to airport due to missing windows

As reported by The Aviation Herald, the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is investigating an event that happened on October 4, 2023. It involves a roughly two year old Titan Airways Airbus A321LR with the registration code G-OATW.

For those not familiar, Titan Airways is a British charter airline with a fleet of Airbus A320-family aircraft. The airline operates flights for everything ranging from the British government, to Four Seasons. Actually, the jet involved in this incident was the one in the “TCS World Travel” livery, which operates all kinds of luxury travel journeys. I believe the aircraft has the below snazzy interior.

Anyway, the aircraft was scheduled to fly from London Stansted Airport (STN) to Orlando International Airport (MCO) without passengers onboard, as the jet was repositioning for its next contract. The aircraft departed runway 22, though after takeoff, the crew noticed excessive noise in the cabin.

So the decision was made to stop the climb at around 15,000 feet, and to return to the airport. The plane ended up landing back at Stansted Airport on the same runway, around 37 minutes after it departed.

The Titan Airways A321LR returned to London Stansted

Upon landing, it was discovered that three windows in the cabin were missing or loose. Furthermore, there was damage to the left hand stabilizer, as it’s believed that one of the windows that came loose hit the stabilizer. This incident is being investigated as an accident.

What could have caused this incident?

Here’s what makes this even more interesting. Prior to this flight, the aircraft had been operating for the UK government for well over a year, with a different registration code. Specifically, the plane had the registration code G-GBNI, and weeks earlier King Charles even flew on this exact plane.

That government contract was finally done, and from September 23 through October 2, 2023, the plane had been at London Southend Airport (SEN) for maintenance, repair, and overhaul, as the plane was being transfered from the UK government back to standard Titan Airways operations.

While aircraft maintenance can in many cases involve taking a lot of things apart and putting them back together, technicians are typically very detail oriented with this work, because any small mistake can have major implications.

One would think that whatever happened was probably related to the work that had been completed, since it’s the only factor that recently changed. Windows don’t typically just come loose on aircraft.

The story of British Airways flight 5390 certainly comes to mind. In 1990, a British Airways aircraft suffered an explosive decompression, whereby the windscreen panel separated from the aircraft frame, causing the captain to be partially ejected from the aircraft.

It was determined that the windscreen had been installed just 27 hours earlier, and 84 of the 90 bolts used to secure the windscreen were 0.026 inches too small in diameter.

Fortunately in this case, no one was even injured, and the plane landed safely. I’m curious to see what the investigation determines here, and for how long the aircraft will be out of service.

Bottom line

An Airbus A321LR operated by Titan Airways was supposed to fly across the Atlantic recently, but ended up having to return to the airport due to excessive noise in the cabin. It was determined that three of the windows were either missing or loose, and one even hit the aircraft’s stabilizer.

The plane had just completed a contract with the UK government, and was in maintenance prior to this flight. Investigators are now looking into the cause of this incident, which most likely involves something that happened into the weeks leading up to this flight.

What do you make of this incident?


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