A pilot who made an emergency landing in southwest China after a broken cockpit window sucked his co-pilot halfway out of the aircraft has been hailed as a "hero".

Liu Chuanjian braved the intense cold and blasting wind to slow the airliner from its original speed of about 800-900kmph to land in about 20 minutes.

All 128 people aboard the Airbus A319 of Sichuan Airlines survived the ordeal.

The plane was bound for Lhasa in Tibet from the southwestern city of Chongqing when the cockpit window shattered at about 9,800 metres.

The flight was diverted to the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.

"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. Luckily his seatbelt was tied," Mr Chuanjian said.

He said the plane was vibrating strongly and it was impossible to read the instruments.

The former flight instructor with the Chinese air force said:"I didn't think about anything at all. I wanted to control the plane and land."

The safety director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China said that the plane "shed its right windshield" as it was flying over Chengdu.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

A video published online by the People's Daily shows oxygen masks deployed, and flight attendants walking up and down the aisle to give passengers instructions on how to disembark.

It was the second emergency landing in China in less than a month.

On 15 April, an Air China flight was diverted after a man briefly took a crew member hostage, threatening him with a fountain pen.

More than 160 million people have viewed or participated in discussions about the pilot on the Twitter-like micro blogging platform Weibo.

The most popular chat forum on the incident was titled, "My Hero Captain".

"This is a miracle in the history of Chinese aviation, and shows the special psychological mindset of flight instructors," one commenter wrote.

"Having watched the American film, 'Sully', based on real events, this is even more shocking and exciting!" another commenter said.

He was referring to Chesley Sullenberger, a US Airways pilot who was hailed as a national hero in January 2009 after he managed to save the lives of 155 passengers and crew by landing his stricken airliner in New York's Hudson River.