Narine Melkumjan
Credit: Narine Melkumjan/Instagram

Canopy Covering Cockpit Blasts Open Mid-flight, Exposing Pilot in Terrifying Video

The piano-playing pilot Narine Melkumjan said she shared the video hoping other pilots could learn from her mistakes.

Narine Melkumjan, the self-described piano-playing pilot, shared a video this week of the terrifying moment the canopy covering the cockpit of her plane blasted open during a flight. In the caption, Melkumjan explained that the incident happened back in 2020 during an aerobatic training flight but she's been sitting on the video out of embarrassment.

"I regret that it took me so long to share this video footage. It's not easy to put my vulnerabilities out there for the world to see. However, I have come to realize how important it is to be transparent about our shortcomings and the lessons we learn along the way," Melkumjan wrote on Instagram.

The canopy blasts open and shatters

As with any story, the video starts at the beginning. Just before take-off, Melkumjan closes the canopy of her Extra 330XL aircraft, does some minor checks, and then taxis to the runway. Next, she takes off and ascends into the sky. As objects on the ground get smaller, she bounces her eyes from her controls to the view and back. After flying for a little while, she turns in the sky and flies sideways. However, it's when she rotates the plane so it's level that the canopy blasts open, hits the side of the plane, and shatters.

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For a moment, it looked like Melkumjan wanted to reach over to grab the canopy, but she resisted the urge and grabbed the controls. With the canopy dangling off to the side, the wind blows against her hair and face. Despite the discomfort, she keeps her eyes open. For the remainder of the video, she steers the plane back to the ground. When she finally lands and stops the plane, she grabs her face.


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A post shared by Narine Melkumjan (@narinemelkumjan)

Narine Melkumjan explains what went wrong

In the caption, Melkumjan said she decided to share the video "as a cautionary tale" for any pilot watching and hopes they can "learn from my mistake." She explained that she made a couple of mistakes that "could have been avoided if I had made a proper visual check before taking off."

"The canopy locking pin had never gone into the locked position, and I failed to notice it during my checks," Melkumjan wrote. What's more, she said she didn't think she was physically ready. "I also made the mistake of going to the training camp right after recovering from COVID, without allowing my body enough time to fully regain strength," she wrote.

And to top it off, she opted not to wear eye protection. "The flight was a distressing experience, filled with noise, breathing difficulties, and impaired visibility. It took me nearly 28 hours to fully recover my vision," she wrote. Although the incident was loud and physically demanding, she said what got her through it was hearing her coach on the radio, saying: "Just keep flying."