UL 503 in double jeopardy in one day

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The windshield of the Heathrow bound UL 503 which had cracked about 45 minutes after delayed take-off from Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on the afternoon of January 3 was the very one replaced due to a defect earlier in the day, a SriLankan airlines spokesperson said yesterday.

Responding to a query by ‘The Island’, Media Relations Manager of SriLankan Deepal V. Perera acknowledged that the replacement of the windshield caused a delay.

Some of those on board the Airbus A 330-200 said that the first scheduled departure had to be delayed by 30-40 minutes.

Perera said that the Flight/Ground Safety Division was handling the internal investigation. Asked whether the SriLankan airlines had furnished all required information to the Civil Aviation Department to facilitate its investigation, the spokesman said the airline was fully cooperating with the department.

Passengers quoted the Captain of the aircraft as having said that as the windshield could have got blown off the cockpit crew wore oxygen masks. In online comment posted on The Aviation Herald, passenger Zoe Martin said that having taken off from BIA, the flight resorted to what he called roll of the plane to come down rapidly and also to regain some pressure in cabin. Martin quoted the pilot as having said: "I’m sorry for the unscheduled descend. I have a serious problem with a hole in the window. We are heading back to Colombo, approximately 240 miles away. The plane at this moment is under control and will inform if the situation changes."

However, SriLankan spokesperson insisted that there had never been a loss of pressure or altitude due to the crack in the windshield. The flight was descended to a lower altitude as a precautionary measure under the total control of the pilot in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Another passenger Raj Desai said that the flight rapidly descended to 10,000 feet after the pilot reported the crack in the windshield. "When we de-embarked from the plane the windscreen was 100 per cent shattered. Desai revealed that he had written to both Civil Aviation Authority as well as the SriLankan airlines.

Another passenger said that the whole right-side front windshield had been completely shattered and was caved into aircraft as well. It seemed that the frame around the window too was caved in.

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