Thirty years after the incident on BA Flight 5390 images have resurfaced online, reviving memories of one of the strangest and most heroic chapters in civil aviation.
A striking photo of a distressed pilot hanging from the window of his BAC 1-11 has gone viral online. As his co-pilot holds doggedly onto his ankles, both men seem desperate for the flight to land.
Online pundits and meme-artists commented on how this oddity from the archives captures the current mood of aviation perfectly.
Of course the image is fake. It is a still taken from a 2005 TV show - however the story it depicts is true and even more extraordinary.
Photos of the real BA plane crew and captain convalescing in hospital soon followed, grounding the bizarre image in fact.
Flight 5390 is one of the most storied and remarkable near-misses in British Airway's history. Most remarkable perhaps is how all those onboard the flight in June 1990, lived to tell the tale:
It was 27 minutes into the flight from Birmingham to Malaga, Spain, somewhere over the English Midlands two of the cockpit windows smashed, depressurising the cabin.
Captain Tim Lancaster who was at the controls was instantly sucked out of the cockpit.
In interviews with the cabin crew, they described the chaos that followed. Exposed to the rushing wind and pressure difference at 7000m altitude the cockpit door was ripped off its hinges.
Remarkably one quick thinking flight attendant, Nigel Ogden, was able to grab his captain's ankles, before he disappeared out the window.
"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," Ogden said later in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
Ogden was hailed a hero for his actions. Without his quick reactions the pilot likely would have been lost out the window and, a greater danger still, they avoided the grim risk of the captain being caught by the engines – causing the entire plane to be lost.
"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.
"His legs were jammed forward, disconnecting the autopilot, and the flight door was resting on the controls, sending the plane hurtling down at nearly 650 kilometres per hour through some of the most congested skies in the world," he told the Herald.
While the captain was held for now, Ogden felt his grip loosening and the plane was still many minutes away from an emergency landing. He was able to get help from a second flight attendant – John Heward – to help secure the captain. Co-pilot Alistair Atchinson wrestled with the controls as he tried to land the plane, solo.
"All I can remember is looking at Alastair Atchinson, the co-pilot, struggling to get the plane under control and shouting 'Mayday! Mayday!' into the radio," Ogden recalled to The Sunday Times.
By this time the cabin crew were joined by another member, Simon Rogers, who was able to tie himself to a cockpit chair, and stop Tim from slipping. However all three men could not return him to the cockpit. They were forced to hold him in place for 20 agonising minutes.
The lives of the crew and 87 passengers depended on the captain not being sucked out the window.
"His face was banging against the window with blood coming out of his nose and the side of his head, his arms were flailing and seemed about six feet (2 metres) long," recalled Ogden.
Captain Tim spent 20 minutes like this on the outside of the cockpit, as the plane radioed in an emergency landing to Southampton Airport, their closest landing strip to divert to.
"Most terrifyingly, his eyes were wide open. I'll never forget that sight as long as I live."
Cabin crew member, Sue Prince had been in the cabin with the passengers who were understandably distraught.
As they rapidly descended on approach to Southampton Prince and Ogden told the passengers to "brace, brace" while Alastair brought the plane in to land.
Remarkably the landing was smooth and the BAC 1-11 was met on the tarmac by emergency services. "He brought that plane down perfectly," said Ogden.
More remarkable still apart from several broken bones and severe frostbite, the captain had survived almost half an hour on the outside of the plane, held only by his legs.
On investigation by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch it was discovered the maintenance crew had replaced the window panels with incorrect bolts. The bolts which were of a too small diameter had been hanging on by their threads until the fateful moment when cabin pressure blew the windows out.
Captain Tim Lancaster was not deterred. He returned to flying the same plane model five months later. He continued to fly with BA until his retirement in 2003 after which he joined the budget carrier EasyJet for the next five years. The rest of his career was spent flying on the inside of plane cabins.
The dramatic incident was recreated by TV network National Geographic in the 2005 documentary Air Crash Investigation: Blow Out, from which the remarkable stills were taken. It was these images which had found viral interest online with passengers recalling their flying horror stories.
One aviation enthusiast said he flew with Captain Tim on an EasyJet flight from Amsterdam in the early 2000s - to which one Redditor replied "I hope you took your window of opportunity and told Tim to 'buckle up'".
Kiwi documentary maker David Farrier retweeted the images, saying the "story of tim, alastair, nigel, john, simon and freddy" was a favourite of his.
It is not clear which 'Freddy' Farrier was refering to, possibly refer to Freddy Yetman - technical secretary for British Airline Pilots Association - who defended the aircraft's safety record during the inquiry.