A Chinese co-pilot is recovering in hospital after apparently being sucked out a cockpit window and had half of his body dangling out of the plane at 32,000ft high.
Xu Ruichen, 27, was saved by his seat belt after the windshield in front of him suddenly broke and fell off the Sichuan Airlines plane carrying 119 passengers, said the captain of the flight to Chinese media.
Despite the fact that the cockpit's temperature suddenly dropped to minus 40 degree Celsius, captain Liu Chuanjian safely landed the Airbus A319 after the mid-air emergency over south-western China yesterday morning.
The co-pilot Xu reportedly suffered scratches on the face and the chest and is currently hospitalised in Chengdu, according to state broadcaster Central China Television Station.
During a press conference, the captain thanked his flight crew for helping him deal with the emergency calmly and successfully.
All passengers were reported to be safe.
The Sichuan Airlines plane, 3U8633, was scheduled to fly from Chongqing to Lhasa. It departed Chongqing at 6:27am and was due to arrive in Lhasa at 9:27:am.
One of the plane's windshields reportedly shattered about one hour into the flight when the Airbus A319 was flying over the city of Chengdu.
The captain claimed he had 25 years of experience and had flown the route more than 100 times.
He told Chengdu Business Daily there were no warning sign when one of the windshields on the right-hand side of the cockpit shattered.
'The exploded window caused the cockpit to decompress immediately, everything in the cockpit was floating in the air.
'I couldn't hear the radio and the cockpit's temperature dropped to minus 40 degree Celsius,' he said.
The co-pilot had his upper body 'sucked out' of the broken windshield despite having a safety belt strapped on, stated the captain.
One female passenger also suffered minor injuries on the waist. They were both taken to Chengdu No.1 People's Hospital after the landing.
A recent airplane maintenance report released by Xinhua News Agency showed there were no signs of tear and wear on the windshields.
It also confirmed the airline company had never changed or altered any windshields on the plane.
According to an earlier report by Xinhua, the captain issued an 'Squawk 7700' emergency code after the window shattered, alerting the air traffic control facilities of the dangerous situation.
The plane was diverted to nearby Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu. Within in 20 minutes at around 7:46am, the captain safely landed the plane at the airport.
Mobile phone footage emerged online shows flight attendants asking passengers to wear oxygen masks and putting on safety belts.
Zeng Jun, one of the passengers, told Chengdu Business Daily: 'The plane suddenly descended after flying about an hour in the air. It lasted for about five, six seconds.
'There were people screaming, bags dropping from the overhead cabin and lunch boxes scattering along the corridor.'
Reports from yesterday also said 27 flight passengers claimed to be unwell after the incident and had to be hospitalised.
Most of the passengers were discharged shortly after.
A total of 59 passengers were told to take another flight at 11:50am to fly to Lhasa Gonggar Airport while the remaining travellers sought alternative transport, such as high-speed train.
In a statement issued today on its social media account, Sichuan Airlines apologised to the passengers on board for the inconvenience the incident had brought them.
The statement also said all flight crew were in stable condition.