Investigations into window damage on an Airbus A321neo, caused by high-intensity floodlights during a filming session, have turned up four other occurrences under similar circumstances.

Three of these other instances involved Boeing 787s while the fourth affected an A321.

The Titan Airways A321neo had departed London Stansted for Orlando on 4 October last year, but returned to Stansted some 36min after take-off after window damage was discovered by its crew.

Four windows had been affected, two of which were completely missing.

While the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch had already identified exposure to high-temperature lighting – the day before the incident – as the cause of the damage, it reveals that other aircraft have previously encountered a similar issue.

lighting windows-c-AAIB

Source: via Air Accidents Investigation Branch

Film lighting was found to have damaged other aircraft including 787s and an A321

Four aircraft received damaged to acrylic cabin windows during filming activities, it states, adding: “In those four cases the damage was identified and repaired before the aircraft flew.”

Six cabin windows were damaged on a Boeing 787 which was filmed inside a hangar and illuminated by three 2,000W lamps positioned on mobile platforms.

The windows suffered “significant deformation”, says the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, with one of them having a hole burned through its panes.

Boeing referred to three occurrences of 787 windows sustaining thermal damage in its customer safety publication, recommending that operators avoiding high-intensity lights during film work – or at least keep them distant from the cabin and use equipment which minimises infra-red emission.

lighting window damage-c-AAIB

Source: via Air Accidents Investigation Branch

Damage to windows in previous occurrences had been noticed before the aircraft flew

The inquiry mentions another mishap involving an A321 after spotlights were placed just inboard of the engines – about 1.5-1.8m from the windows – during an outdoor filming exercise.

“When the damage was reported to Airbus, it was not aware of any other occurrences, and considered the circumstances to be outside the anticipated operating conditions,” it states.

Six UK operators responded to an Air Accidents Investigation Branch query about safety management for filming.

“Most operators emphasised the importance of engineering supervision for the activity,” it says.

“One operator had identified the risk of heat from external lighting damaging a composite fuselage but none of the operators had previously identified the risk of heat damaging aircraft windows, except for an operator that had previously suffered damage from this cause.”

None of the 20 occupants of the Titan aircraft was injured. The carrier credits its crew with “swift and professional handling” of the incident, adding that it welcomes the “extremely thorough and professional investigation” and the decisions by Airbus and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to circulate information emphasising the potential damage which can result from film lighting.