Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Plane dropped 10,000ft after co-pilot started 'vaping in cockpit'

China's aviation regulator said it was analysing the aircraft's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder China's aviation regulator said it was analysing the aircraft's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder Credit REGIS DUVIGNAU REUTERS
Steven Clarke | 14 July, 2018, 09:45

The BBC, citing Chinese investigators, reported that the first officer of Air China Flight CA106 accidentally shut off the plane's air conditioning system - causing insufficient oxygen levels in the cabin.

The incident, which resulted in the deployment of passenger oxygen masks, occurred Tuesday on a flight by the Chinese flag carrier from Hong Kong to the city of Dalian in northeastern China.

Chinese airlines have a good safety record in general, but passengers have, on occasion, accused pilots of smoking during flights.

He then mistakenly switched off the air-conditioning unit while attempting to turn on air-recycling fans - causing an alarm to sound when smoke leaked into the cabin and oxygen levels plunged.

Oxygen masks were deployed before passengers were subjected to a terrifying 6,000m rapid descent to an altitude of just 3,000m over a period of just 10 minutes.

Air China Flight CA106 from Hong Kong to Dalian in China lost altitude a half an hour into the scheduled 5:55 pm trip.

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The crew realised the problem after the descent and restored the air conditioning, allowing cabin pressure to return to normal, he said.

The CAAC said it was continuing the investigation and was analysing the aircraft's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

Qiao Yibin, the CAAC official, promised to hand down "severe punishment in accordance with laws and regulations", if the regulator's final conclusion on the incident matches its initial finding.

China bars flight crews from "smoking on all phases of operation", and passengers there haven't been able to use e-cigarettes on planes since 2006.

China's Civil Aviation Administration said smoke seeped into the passenger cabin, which can carry up to 215 passengers, according to state media.

"I didn't think too much of it at the time - we didn't know what was going on, nor did the flight attendants it seemed", he told CNN on Thursday.

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