A plane that previously embarked with very high profile passengers was forced to turn around when stunned crew members discovered two missing windows. The Airbus A321 left London’s Stansted Airport destined for Orlando on Oct. 4 without key equipment in place.
The Titan Airways plane was used earlier by Britain’s King Charles and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
It reached an altitude of 14,500 feet when crew members noticed the cabin noise was deafening. One of the windows was flapping, and all that remained where the shields should have been were plastic scratch panes.
Eleven crew members and nine passengers employed by U.S. luxury tour company TCS World Travel were on board. The plane landed safely with no injuries reported.
Investigators discovered the windows were damaged by high-powered lights utilized in a film shoot the day before the flight, according to the Independent. Both the inner and outer panes along with the rubber seals were missing on both.
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Passengers initially complained the flight was “noisier and colder than they were used to.” As the aircraft climbed and passengers and crew were able to walk about, the loadmaster walked to the back and discovered a flapping window seal.
The crew member described the racket as “loud enough to damage your hearing.” They immediately told the cabin crew and went to the cockpit to let the pilot know the situation.
There were no “abnormal indications” apparent, but the aircraft’s ascent was halted and airspeed reduced while the area of the missing windows was inspected. It was then agreed that the flight should return to Stansted.
The landing came after 36 minutes of flight time minus the two windows. A closer inspection revealed the true extent of damage to the plane.
The initial inspection from the outside confirmed that two window panes were missing and a third was dislodged. One of the shattered outer panes was later located “during a routine runway inspection.”
A fourth was found “protruding from the left side of the fuselage.”
Investigators said the windows may have taken heat damage from the lights used in the previous days filming. The U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said the probe will further study the risks involved in using the lights and how this can be better managed.