The licenses of two Chinese pilots have been revoked after their vaping in the cockpit resulted in an emergency landing. The Air China flight from Hong Kong to Dalian experienced cabin pressure loss and had to drop more than 6,500m (21,000ft) sending passengers into a panic.
Air China Boeing 737-800 (B-5851) flight #CA106 from Hong Kong to Dalian made emergency descent to 10,000ft after a sudden loss of cabin pressure. Climbed to en-route level again and continued to destination. https://t.co/dhXKLC52ZK pic.twitter.com/ePa5UxZMjO— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) July 11, 2018
China's civil aviation body further fined the airline and cut their flights by 10% until comprehensive safety reviews were conducted that would last three months. The incident saw pilots blatantly ignore safety rules, a move that proved very dangerous.
A dangerous mistake
One of the pilots smoking an e-cigarette attempted to turn off a fan to prevent the smoke from reaching the passenger cabin in mid-air during the now infamous flight. Mistakenly, he closed the air-conditioning which led to a drop in the cabin's oxygen levels.
Staff followed airline procedures and brought the aircraft to a lower altitude. They were able to identify that the air conditioning had been turned off and successfully brought back the flight to its normal altitude.
The plane did arrive on time with all on board safe however the incident was not without consequences for the rest of the crew. Even a third pilot not involved in the incident saw his license revoked for six months.
Faulty oxygen masks?
The panic and horror of the passengers have been well documented both on twitter and through several news outlets. Passengers have complained of more than the pilots' behavior including the plane's oxygen masks.
“None of the oxygen masks which were deployed had any oxygen coming out of the masks,” said passenger Eugene Chow to the South China Morning Post. “I kept breathing in and out so much that my mask filled up with carbon dioxide from my exhalation instead."
The newspaper claimed Chow contacted them with concerns that the oxygen masks were faulty. The Post said the pictures provided by the passenger appeared authentic.
The concerns seem to have been shared by other passengers as well who claimed there was either “no air” or “very little oxygen” despite wearing their masks as instructed. So far, Air China and the Civil Aviation Administration of China have ignored requests for comments and failed to mention the masks altogether.
Regardless of the plane's equipment, Chinese airline regulations have strict prohibitions against crew smoking and have also banned the use of all e-cigarettes on planes since 2006. The incident has not fared well for the airline.