In a statement, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said that part of the cockpit window broke as the plane was flying over Chengdu and the cause of the incident was under investigation.
In all the chaos, the co-pilot was miraculously pulled back into the cabin. The pilot safely landed the plane, but Riordan died of her injuries.
He says he felt the cold air and saw how the cockpit door opened. "I couldn't hear the radio. The plane was shaking so hard I could not read the gauges", the captain added, according to Reuters.
The temperature of the cockpit is reported to have dropped to minus 40 degree Celsius, forcing the plane to descend rapidly for five to six seconds before the pilot grabbed an oxygen mask and managed to manually regain control.
On April 15th, an Air China flight was diverted after a man briefly took hostage a crew member he was threatening with a fountain pen. With the captain pressed against the window frame for 20 minutes, the co-pilot made a safe landing.
"The oxygen masks on the plane all dropped out". The Wall Street Journal reports an Airbus team will help investigate the incident.
His captain, Captain Liu Chuanjian, performed an emergency landing, making an unscheduled stop in Chengdu. "People were shocked", the agency quoted an unnamed passenger as saying.
The video, filmed in Flight 3U8633 from Chongqing to Lhasa on May 14, shows passengers using oxygen masks and a flight attendant saying: "Those exits can not be opened" and "Be safe". According to the Global Times, experts say Liu was lucky to make the landing that he did, as strong airflow into the cabin could have hit at speeds of up to 500 kilometers per hour, coming straight at the pilots.
Sichuan Airlines, a regional airline headquartered in Chengdu, operates mostly domestic flights but also flies internationally to countries such as Japan, Canada, and the Czech Republic. The accident happened when the plane was cruising at an altitude of 32,000 feet. The airline did not provide any more details.