United Boeing 787 Made Emergency Landing After Suffering Captain's Windshield Crack

A United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner has suffered Captain’s windshield crack after take-off from Hong Kong on 14th May.


United Boeing 787 Made Emergency Landing After Suffering Captain's Windshield Crack
The aircraft was cruising at 40,000 feet when it suffered crack. Photo: United Airlines

The aircraft with registration N26952 was cruising at 40,000 feet, approximately 470 nautical miles from Tokyo, when the crew reported a crack in the captain's windshield.


The aircraft was forced to divert to Tokyo Narita. The crew declared a PAN PAN and made an emergency landing safely on runway 16R approximately after 90 minutes after declaring the mid-flight incident.


For those unaware, a PAN PAN is an international radio distress signal of less urgency than a mayday signal.



United Boeing 787 Made Emergency Landing After Suffering Captain's Windshield Crack
The aircraft made an emergency landing in Tokyo. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

The United Boeing 787-9 was performing flight UA-2862 from Hong Kong to San Francisco. Initially, the flight was scheduled to depart on 13th May. However, the departure was delayed by 21 hours approximately, according to the Aviation Herald.


The aircraft was performing a cargo-only flight with four crew members on board. The aircraft was en route at FL400 over the Pacific Ocean when this incident was reported. 



United Boeing 787 Made Emergency Landing After Suffering Captain's Windshield Crack
The aircraft was operating cargo-only flight. Photo: United Airlines

The crew reported the incident at 13:10 UTC (22:10 Japan Standard Time), and made an emergency landing at Tokyo Narita beyond the curfew at 15:07 UTC (00:07 JST) on 15th May. No injuries was reported.


The 787-9 then continued its flight to San Francisco from Narita at 12:13 JST on 16th May, with call-sign UA-2716. Currently, the aircraft is in San Francisco.


The United Airlines, Boeing 787-9 which was involved in the incident was delivered to the airline back in February, 2015 and is currently 5.3 years old.



United Boeing 787 Made Emergency Landing After Suffering Captain's Windshield Crack
The aircraft was only 5.3 years old. Photo: United Airlines

As of now, the radio transmissions between the ATC and United 787 pilot have not been recovered. However, the following was heard on the Narita Emergency/Guard Frequency at 13:12:14, according to Aviation-Safety.net :


"There's an aircraft on, uh, one twenty-one five that is declaring PAN-PAN. Did Tokyo call back?"


This flight was a part of the fifth-freedom service going from San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore. It's main purpose was for cargo transport.



United Boeing 787 Made Emergency Landing After Suffering Captain's Windshield Crack
United 787 has been flying many fifth-freedom routes recently Photo: United Airlines

According to FlightRadar24.com, the Dreamliner has been flying several fifth-freedom routes recently. The 787-9 flew to destinations such as Tokyo, Chengdu and Beijing.


On 10th and 11th May, the aircraft's journey was:

  • San Francisco - Tokyo
  • Tokyo - Beijing
  • Beijing - Tokyo
  • Tokyo - San Francisco 

However, the specific cause of the crack is not disclosed. The cockpit windshields contain two layers of glass, with a plastic sheet in between for heating. Either of the pane is capable if holding full pressure is another one is lost.


United Boeing 787 Made Emergency Landing After Suffering Captain's Windshield Crack
The cockpit windshields contain two layers of glass Photo: United Airlines

Typically, the outer pane cracks due to excess heating and the spiderweb will progress. These panes are thicker one than the one in the side windows.


The windshields are more likely to crack while climbing than inn other phases of a flight. But some aircraft experience cracked windshields at cruising altitude.



United Boeing 787 Made Emergency Landing After Suffering Captain's Windshield Crack
United Airline's 787s have been flying many trans-Pacific service lately Photo: United Airlines

Windshields suffer cracks due to various reasons along with heating. Hailstorms is one of the most likely cause. The age of the aircraft along with number of flight cycles also might be a cause.


Have you ever been on a flight which has suffered similar windshield crack? Let us know in the comments below:

1 Comments

  1. I was with continental for 23years... In the summer of 1998 we took off from EWR headed to ORY (Paris) .. Got to about 8-10K feet and lost pressure and entered a steep dive... Masks had dropped and you could see the condensation in the air. It was like a wind tunnel in the cabin and freezing... we leveled off as the flight deck announced a side cockpit window had exploded and blown out... We landed safely back in EWR (Newark) ... The flight deck was a mess... as were the crew...

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