Recently I read of this Ethiopian B737 incident at Dire Dawa on Jan 9th 2020. The aircraft flew through a swarm of locusts, which didn't cause any significant damage, but it rendered the cockpit windows completely opaque. So it clearly can happen.

Now on most aircraft, including B737 from that incident, the cockpit side windows can be opened and provide enough forward visibility to land the airplane from basically any available instrument approach.

However, A350 does not have any opening window that could be used, and Cat IIIB approaches that can be executed without any visibility are much rarer than just any instrument approach, so none may be available in range.

So what would the pilots do?

  • $\begingroup$ See also BA flight 9 for a successful landing with largely opaque windows. $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    Mar 27, 2021 at 10:06

2 Answers 2


I am not sure if this applies to modern jets, but pilots of the past were sometimes landing "sideways" by using https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slip_(aerodynamics). That provided some view from the side window.

I believe one example of that could be found in "Fate is the Hunter" by Ernest Gann.

Also general aviation pilots sometimes use this technique if the windshield is iced over.


It would depend on how badly the side windows were rendered opaque. If the Capt's side window still had enough clarity to make out the runway boundary during the roundout and flare, that would be enough.

You can land airplanes fine without being able to see directly forward as long as you can see out the sides. When you fly a taildragger from the back seat, which is normal in taildraggers you solo from the back, like J-3 Cubs and most biplanes, you land all the time without being able to see a damn thing in front of you since the nose blocks everything about 60 degrees each side of the nose and you land using your peripheral vision. So that's not really a problem for a decently skilled captain.

If the side windows were as opaque as the windshield, you have a problem and you'd have to try to whatever you can think of. I'd go try to find some cloud and see if I can get enough moisture on the glass for the wipers to work. Or whatever off the wall ideas any of my crew can think of.

And if none of that works, well you do the best you can, performing your own homebrew Cat IIIB landing and hope you can stay between the runway lights. You can just stay on the localizer right down to the flare and control the flare based on rad alt, so the really big challenge is really just staying centered on the runway. You might try having a crew member sit behind you against the rear side window if that had visibility, where they can see the runway edges, and verbally call out left/right corrections through the touchdown and rollout.

If it was late enough in the day I would probably elect to delay landing until dusk because the runway lights would show up way better though the frosted glass effect in the dark, well enough at least to be able to stay between them. I would say that as long as you can make out the runway lights, you'd be good.

Even during the day, depending on how bright the day was with cloud conditions etc, you might find the runway lights cranked up to max intensity could be made out through the goo, good enough to be able to land and stay on the runway. So I don't think the bug mooshed windows are a death sentence, but you'd be earning your 6 figure salary for sure.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If you can follow the ILS to minimums, perhaps someone (preferrably an experienced pilot) on the ground might be able to talk you down the rest of the way. I have read of it being done, I think. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 25, 2020 at 5:41
  • $\begingroup$ Of course there is also the case when the windows are fine, but the visibility is below minima everywhere in range, like this accident in Jaipur on Jan 5th 2014 and the follow-up incident. But if someone can advise from the ground, it is certainly safer than those. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 25, 2020 at 11:35

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