A co-pilot on an airplane caused quite a scare after his attempt to hide his vaping behavior led to the plane descending almost 25,000 feet in just 10 minutes. Fortunately, there were no major injuries to any of the passengers and the plane landed safely at the destination airport.
The altitude drop
The plane under discussion was an Air China Boeing 737, which carried 162 passengers and was headed off to Dalian from Hong Kong. The co-pilot was apparently smoking his e-cigarette in the cockpit. But when he saw that the smoke was going to spread into the main cabin, the pilot decided to switch off the circulation fan without even telling his captain.
However, instead of switching off the fan, the pilot wrongly ended up turning off the air conditioning unit located next to it. This eventually resulted in a reduction in oxygen in the cabin and also an altitude warning. The airplane’s emergency system warned the pilots to immediately start descending.
Oxygen masks in the cabin were immediately deployed and the pilots started the lower the aircraft. As a consequence, the plane descended from 35,000 feet to just 10,000 feet in a matter of 10 minutes. But the pilots soon found out the mistake and switched back the air conditioning system. And in a few minutes, they took the airplane to an altitude of 26,600 feet and eventually landed at the Dalian airport.
Many flight experts have pointed out that the pilots were wrong in continuing with the flight to the destination since the oxygen masks were already off and that they should have landed the plane at the nearest airport. However, there are also opposing views that argue that since the aircraft itself did not have any problems, there was no need to stop the journey.
“The norm would usually see an aircraft suffering from depressurization landing at the nearest suitable airport — not least to calm down the passengers, who would be severely frightened… However, if there were nothing structurally wrong with the aircraft, the commander could elect to continue to a more distant airport,” the South China Morning Post quotes an air safety expert.
The incident has admittedly raised a storm on social media, with people pointing fingers at the careless behavior of the pilots. Air China has started an investigation into the matter, promising quick action.
“Regarding the incident of oxygen masks dropping on the flight CA106 from Hong Kong to Dalian on July 10, currently, the flight crew are being investigated by the relevant department from Civil Aviation Bureau. If the investigation shows any conduct from the flight crew that breaks the policies or regulations, the company would seriously deal with the people responsible for the matters with zero tolerance,” the Daily Mail quotes a statement made by Air China in their official Weibo account.
Interestingly, a passenger of the airplane had posted a picture of himself with the oxygen mask, showing a thumbs-up sign while the plane was still in flight. And though several other pics posted by the passengers show the hanging oxygen masks, none of them were reportedly panicked about the situation. As such, the airline might take a lenient view on the matter and let the flight crew off with a strict warning since the incident did not result in any serious harm to the passengers.