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Pilot on mission impossible still haunted by trauma

By Huang Zhiling and Yang Yi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-05-17 14:31
Pilot Liu Chuanjian at the headquarters of Sichuan Airlines in Chengdu, Sichuan province. [Photo by Huang Zhiling/chinadaily.com.cn]

Liu Chuanjian has a stern face and is expressionless most of the time.

But he would tell those who are curious that he is not yet over the trauma caused by the emergency landing on Monday.

The 46-year-old pilot was on Sichuan Airlines Flight 3U8633, which took off as scheduled from Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport in Chongqing municipality at 6:26 am and was due in Lhasa, Tibet autonomous region, at 9:05 am.

At around 7 am, about 100 kilometers into the journey, Liu and co-pilot Xu Ruicheng suddenly heard a loud bang. They both shouted: "There are cracks in the windshield."

Liu asked the air traffic control department for permission to return the aircraft to the ground. But soon afterward the windshield shattered and his co-pilot was sucked halfway out of the window.

"I was afraid and tried in vain to pull him inside because he was far from me," Liu said.

Most of the equipment on the aircraft malfunctioned. Liu could not hear the radio or fellow crew members.

There was a shortage of oxygen and the temperature was -40 C. But Liu could not feel the biting cold because he was so preoccupied with how to land the aircraft.

Liu felt at ease after he could operate the aircraft with the joystick. "I had confidence I could land the aircraft safely because I had flown more than 100 times along the route," he said.

He admitted to having been troubled by the speed of landing. "There was inadequate air and it was very cold at a high altitude. But if I lowered the aircraft too quickly, the impact force would endanger the crew. As a result, I had taken a medium speed," Liu said.

He was able to make an emergency landing in Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Chengdu, Sichuan province, about 45 minutes after the incident, saving all 119 passengers and nine crew members aboard.

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