British Airways Flight 5390

Coordinates: 51°36′21″N 1°14′27″W / 51.60583°N 1.24083°W / 51.60583; -1.24083
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British Airways Flight 5390
G-BJRT BAC1-11 B.A. BHX 15-07-89 (25566356266).jpg
G-BJRT, the aircraft involved, seen in July 1989
Date10 June 1990
SummaryExplosive decompression of cockpit window due to poor maintenance procedures
SiteDidcot, Oxfordshire, England
51°36′21″N 1°14′27″W / 51.60583°N 1.24083°W / 51.60583; -1.24083
Aircraft typeBAC One-Eleven 528FL
Aircraft nameCounty of South Glamorgan
OperatorBritish Airways
IATA flight No.BA5390
ICAO flight No.BAW5390
Call signSPEEDBIRD 5390
Flight originBirmingham Airport, England
DestinationMálaga Airport, Spain

British Airways Flight 5390 was a flight from Birmingham Airport in England for Málaga Airport in Spain. On 10 June 1990, the BAC One-Eleven 528FL suffered an explosive decompression resulting in no loss of life. While the aircraft was flying over Didcot, Oxfordshire, an improperly installed windscreen panel separated from its frame, causing the captain to be sucked mostly out of the aircraft. The captain was held in place through the window frame for 20 minutes until the first officer landed at Southampton Airport.[1]

Aircraft and crew[edit]

The County of South Glamorgan was a BAC One-Eleven Series 528FL jet airliner, registered as G-BJRT.[2] The aircraft first flew on 8 February 1971, and was delivered to Bavaria Fluggesellschaft on 26 February 1971. It was later transferred to Bavaria Germanair in 1977, Hapag-Lloyd Flug in 1979, British Caledonian in 1981, and finally to British Airways in 1988.[3] The captain was 42-year-old Timothy Lancaster, who had logged 11,050 flight hours, including 1,075 hours on the BAC One-Eleven; the copilot was 39-year-old Alastair Atchison, with 7,500 flight hours, with 1,100 of them on the BAC One-Eleven.[4] The aircraft also carried 4 cabin crew and 81 passengers.


Atchison handled a routine take-off at 08:20 local time (07:20 UTC), then handed control to Lancaster as the plane continued to climb. Both pilots released their shoulder harnesses and Lancaster loosened his lap belt. At 08:33 (07:33 UTC), the plane had climbed through about 17,300 feet (5,300 m)[4]: 3  over Didcot, Oxfordshire, and the cabin crew were preparing for meal service.

Flight attendant Nigel Ogden was entering the cockpit when a loud bang occurred[5] and the cabin quickly filled with condensation. The left windscreen panel, on Lancaster's side of the flight deck, had separated from the forward fuselage; Lancaster was propelled out of his seat by the rushing air from the decompression and forced headfirst out of the flight deck. His knees were caught on the flight controls and his upper torso remained outside the aircraft, exposed to extreme wind and cold. The autopilot had disengaged, causing the plane to descend rapidly.[5] The flight deck door was blown inward onto the control console, blocking the throttle control (causing the aircraft to gain speed as it descended), flight documents and check lists were sucked out of the cockpit, and debris blew in from the passenger cabin. Ogden rushed to grab Lancaster's belt, while the other two flight attendants secured loose objects, reassured passengers, and instructed them to adopt brace positions in anticipation of an emergency landing.

The plane was not equipped with oxygen for everyone on board, so Atchison began a rapid emergency descent to reach an altitude with sufficient air pressure. He then re-engaged the autopilot and broadcast a distress call, but he was unable to hear the response from air traffic control (ATC) because of wind noise; the difficulty in establishing two-way communication led to a delay in initiation of emergency procedures. Ogden, still holding on to Lancaster, was by now becoming exhausted, so purser John Heward and flight attendant Simon Rogers took over the task of holding on to the captain.[6] By this time, Lancaster had shifted several centimetres farther outside and his head was repeatedly striking the side of the fuselage. The crew believed him to be dead, but Atchison told the others to continue holding onto him, out of fear that letting go of him might cause him to strike the left wing, engine, or horizontal stabiliser, potentially damaging it.

Eventually, Atchison was able to hear the clearance from ATC to make an emergency landing at Southampton Airport. The flight attendants managed to free Lancaster's ankles from the flight controls while still keeping hold of him. At 08:55 local time (07:55 UTC), the aircraft landed at Southampton and the passengers disembarked using boarding steps.[7]

Lancaster survived with frostbite, bruising, shock, and fractures to his right arm, left thumb, and right wrist.[5][8] Ogden had cuts and bruises to his arm, and later suffered from PTSD. No other injuries occurred.[8]


Comparison of screws used in the G-BJRT windscreen (left to right: correct size, new; small size, new; correct size, old)

Police found the windscreen panel and many of the 90 bolts securing it near Cholsey, Oxfordshire.[4]: 12  Investigators found that when the windscreen was installed 27 hours before the flight, 84 of the bolts used were 0.026 inches (0.66 mm) too small in diameter (British Standards A211-8C vs A211-8D, which are #8–32 vs #10–32 by the Unified Thread Standard) and the remaining six were A211-7D, which is the correct diameter, but 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) too short (0.7 inch vs. 0.8 inch).[4]: 52  The previous windscreen had also been fitted using incorrect bolts, which were replaced by the shift maintenance manager on a like-for-like basis without reference to maintenance documentation, as the plane was due to depart shortly.[4]: 38  The undersized bolts were unable to withstand the air pressure difference between the cabin and the outside atmosphere during flight. (The windscreen was not of the "plug" type – fitted from the inside so that cabin pressure helps to hold it in place, but of the type fitted from the outside so that cabin pressure tends to dislodge it.)[4]: 7 

Investigators found that the shift maintenance manager responsible for installing the incorrect bolts had failed to follow British Airways policies. They recommended that the CAA recognise the need for aircraft engineering personnel to wear corrective glasses if prescribed. They also faulted the policies themselves, which should have required testing or verification by another individual for this critical task. Finally, they found the local Birmingham Airport management responsible for not directly monitoring the shift maintenance manager's working practices.[4]: 55 


First Officer Alastair Atchison and cabin crew members Susan Gibbins and Nigel Ogden were awarded the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air; Ogden's name was erroneously missed from the published supplement.[9] Atchison was also awarded a 1992 Polaris Award for outstanding airmanship.[10]


The aircraft was repaired and returned to service, eventually being sold to Jaro International in 1993. It continued to operate with them until Jaro ceased operations in 2001; the aircraft was scrapped in 2002.[3]

Tim Lancaster returned to work after less than five months. He left British Airways in 2003 and flew with EasyJet until he retired from commercial piloting in 2008.[5][8]

Alastair Atchison left British Airways shortly after the incident and joined Channel Express, remaining there after it was rebranded as Jet2 until he made his last commercial flight on a Boeing 737-33A (registration: G-CELE) from Alicante to Manchester on his 65th birthday on 28 June 2015.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

The accident was featured on season two of the Canadian documentary series Mayday, in the episode "Blow Out".[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident BAC One-Eleven 528FL G-BJRT Didcot". Aviation Safety Network. Archived from the original on 16 July 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  2. ^ "G-INFO Database". Civil Aviation Authority.
  3. ^ a b "Registration Details For G-BJRT (British Airways) BAC 1-11-528FL". PlaneLogger. Archived from the original on 7 October 2019. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Report No: 1/1992. Report on the accident to BAC One-Eleven, G-BJRT, over Didcot, Oxfordshire on 10 June 1990 (Report). HMSO. 1992. ISBN 0115510990. Archived from the original on 29 September 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Tributes to the reluctant hero of Flight 5390". The Sunday Post (Inverness). 5 July 2015. Archived from the original on 24 October 2020. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  6. ^ "June 10, 1990: Miracle of BA Flight 5390 as captain is sucked out of the cockpit – and survives". BT. 2018. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Image of pilot hanging out window captures heroic story 30 years on". NZ Herald. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  8. ^ a b c "This is your captain screaming (interview with Nigel Ogden)". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 February 2005. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2008.
  9. ^ "No. 52767". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1991. p. 27.
  10. ^ Lee, Jim (13 September 2015). " announces significant investment in additional aircraft". Retrieved 8 March 2023. His skill and heroism was recognised by the awarding of the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air and a 1992 Polaris Award which is the highest decoration associated with civil aviation, ...
  11. ^ "Blow Out". Mayday. Season 2. Episode 1. 2005. Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic Channel.

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