United Airlines Reported To Have Covered Up A 767 Windshield Shattering Mid Air

According to a lawsuit filed by a United Airlines passenger, the airline allegedly has covered up a Boeing 767 windshield shattering mid-air.

What are the details?

Theodore Liaw was a passenger onboard United Airlines Flight 931 from Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR) on October 27, 2018. The flight was operated on a United Airlines Boeing 767-300 aircraft.

United Flight 931 ORD to LHR
United Flight 931 was enroute from ORD to LHR. Photo: FlightAware.

Approximately three hours into the flight, the crew notified the passengers that a windshield had shattered, and they would have to land immediately. The crew started an emergency descent from cruising altitude (40,000 feet). About 30 minutes later, they landed at Goose Bay Airport in Newfoundland, Canada without further incident.

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For some unexplained reason, the passengers were not allowed to disembark the aircraft for almost 8 hours after landing.

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United Airlines Boeing 767-300
Flight 931 was operated on a Boeing 767-300. Photo: Wikimedia.

What happened to the windshield?

Based on the information contained in the lawsuit, two of the windshield’s three layers had “been completely compromised.” United Airlines told the passengers that a bird had hit the windshield. Theodore Liaw, however, believes that this was a lie. The passenger claims that the bolts of the windshield had been over-torqued by maintenance personnel. These over-torqued bolts, in turn, caused the windshield to shatter.

According to TMZ, Liaw stated that the pilots had told him that the windshield had most likely shattered due to over-torqued bolts. Additionally, the pilots allegedly mentioned that they definitely did not hit a bird, because there were no birds at 40,000 feet.

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The Lawsuit

The lawsuit, based on the Montreal Convention, was filed by Gaw | Poe LLP on behalf of Theodore Liaw today. Gaw | Poe LLP is a San Francisco based law firm specializing in “companies and individuals in complex civil lawsuits and transactions.”

Theodore Liaw claims that he has suffered bodily and mental injuries due to the incident. In particular, he states that he suffered a back injury during the emergency landing. Furthermore, he has been experiencing nightmares about plane crashes since the incident.

Liaw’s attorney Randolph Gaw said: “My client is still struggling with the injuries he suffered, and he deserves fair compensation for them.” And, “United made billions of dollars in profits last year, and it’s insulting that they think a $500 voucher is a fair trade for what happened to my client.”

So, what did REALLY happen?

At this point, we just don’t know. United Airlines has only stated that there was an issue with a cockpit window. The airline has not provided any further comment. All we have is the information contained in the lawsuit.

Are birdstrikes at 40,000 feet even possible? Birdstrikes are a common problem, but birdstrikes at high altitudes are few and far in between.

According to Flight 931’s flight information obtained from Flightradar24, the cruising altitude was around 36,000 feet. There have indeed been reports of birdstrikes as high as 37,000 feet in the past. So, even though it is not very likely, there is a possibility that the aircraft did indeed hit a bird.

Flight Path Flight 931
This is the flight path of Flight 931. Photo: Flightradar24.

The flight information also shows us that the aircraft descended about 35,000 feet in 20 minutes. Commercial flights frequently descend at a rate of about 2,000 fpm. Accordingly, this flight did not descend in a manner that would cause concern to the passengers.

Simple Flying will provide an update on the incident as soon as it becomes available. Until then all we can do is speculate on what might have happened.

Is United Airlines trying to cover up what really happened to the windshield? What do you think happened?

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Ronald Wilkes

Ronald Wilkes, Elk River, Minnesota, January 25, 2019 Please confirm if the UA 291 (ORD – LHR) was either a Boeing 767-300 or a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. Please identify if there is a 2 panel, 4 panel or a 6 sectioned panel windscreen configuration on this particular equipment. Apparently, the left panel was compromised. Please confirm. Apparently, each glazed panel is comprised of three layers of reinforced glass. Please advise which layers …. the inside glazing, middle or outside layers were compromised. During an explosive decompression event at 36,000 feet, the internal (interior of the plane) pressure would probably be… Read more »

Captain "Johnny" Sadiq

When an airliner flies at 36000 ft the cabin is usually pressurized to 6000 ft (and sometimes more ) So the internal pressure would not be 14.7 lbs–that would be SEA LEVEL pressure. Therefore the difference in pressure would be less and I doubt whether the decompression would have sucked out the pilots–if they were strapped in. In nearly 20000 hours of flying as an airline pilot, Chief pilot on DC-10s and on B747s and a check and Training pilot, I have experienced wind shield problems twice. The inner layer held and we descended to a safe altitude and landed… Read more »

Alex Bradley

It’s a non issue they crack from time to time. We had a 767 turn around going from JFK-LHR. We loaded the replacement aircraft in 45 minutes and off they went. To file a lawsuit is crazy