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The Sichuan Airlines Airbus A319 was en route from the city of Chongqing to Lhasa in Tibet.

"The windshield burst suddenly and a loud noise was heard, and when I looked to the side, I saw that the co-pilot was already halfway out of the window. The plane was shaking so hard I could not read the gauges", the captain added, according to Reuters.

Despite these difficulties, the pilot - who was hailed as a hero on social media - managed to slow the aircraft from its original speed of about 800-900 kph and land in about 20 minutes after the plane was damaged.

Captain Liu Chuanjian told Chengdu Business Daily that the incident caused his co-pilot to be partially sucked out of the window.

"The cockpit temperature dropped to -40C and most of the controls went faulty". He said anything that was not screwed down was "floating in the air".

The remaining passengers were told to take another flight at 11:50am to fly to Lhasa Gonggar Airport.

The pilot who was sitting in the right-hand seat suffered scratches and a wrist sprain, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China's (CAAC) Southwest Regional Administration. "We didn't know what was going on and we panicked", an unnamed passenger was quoted as saying. Oxygen masks can be seen hanging from the ceiling as cabin crew rush to secure the plane for the emergency landing. But I'm also happy I had a narrow escape'. None of the 119 passengers onboard was hurt after the aircraft suffered the rapid decompression and made its unscheduled landing in the capital of southwestern China's Sichuan province. On May 3, another Southwest Airlines flight was forced to conduct an emergency landing after a cabin window pane cracked in mid-flight.

Incidents involving cracked windshields do happen on a regular basis due to occurrences such as bird or lightning strikes but ones involving entire windshields coming off are rare.

A similar incident occurred in 1990 when the windshield of a British Airways flight blew out at 23,000 feet.