A Titan Airways plane with employees of a luxury tour operator onboard took off from London Stansted for Florida with missing windows.
The Airbus A321neo had reached more than 14,000 feet before anyone noticed that two panes of glass were missing.
It was only after a crew member walked to the back of the plane and spotted that the seal around one of the missing windows was flapping that the fault was discovered. Some of the passengers later recalled that the plane had seemed noisier and cooler than usual.
The repositioning flight to Orlando, carrying 11 crew and nine passengers from the luxury tour operator TCS World Travel, did a u-turn and landed safely back at Stansted.
But an investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Brand (AAIB) said the incident, on 4 October, could have had ‘more serious consequences’.
The aircraft had been used the previous day for filming, during which bright lights had been shone at the windows to give the impression of a sunrise. According to the preliminary AAIB report, they had been shone closer than recommended to the aircraft for between four and five hours on each side.
An inspection revealed that two outer windowpanes were missing – leaving only a scatch-pane filling the space – and two were out of position. It was discovered that foam used to hold the windows in place had either melted or was missing. The damaged windowpanes were ‘deformed and shrunken’, the AAIB said.
Its investigation is continuing.