Flying licences revoked after vaping co-pilot forced 737 flight into emergency descent
First published on Wed 18 Jul 2018 10.37 BST
Two Chinese pilots have been fired after one of them vaped during a passenger flight, causing an emergency descent due to a sudden loss of cabin pressure.
China’s civil aviation body said it had revoked the licences of two Air China pilots, according to the state-run China Central Television.
The pilots were flying a Boeing 737 from Hong Kong to the northern Chinese city of Dalian on 10 July when the co-pilot, smoking an e-cigarette, mistakenly turned off the plane’s air conditioning unit. He had been trying to turn off a fan so that smoke would not spread to the main cabin.
Oxygen levels in the main cabin dropped suddenly, causing oxygen masks to deploy, and triggering an emergency descent. According to passengers, the plane dropped to 10,000ft (3,050 metres), before climbing again and landing in Dalian.
None of the 153 passengers or nine crew was injured.
Aviation authorities investigated the incident and concluded last week, in a preliminary investigation, that the co-pilot had been vaping.
Aviation authorities fined Air China 50,000 yuan (£6,400) and cut the number of its Boeing 737 flights by 10%. The airline is also required to do a three-month safety review. CCTV said other staff onboard the plane have had their licences suspended.
Air China’s shares fell as much as 1.4% in Hong Kong in response to the news, before recovering slightly by the end of the day.
Chinese airlines have a good safety record, and smoking regular or e-cigarettes is banned. However, passengers accuse pilots of secretly smoking. Few cases have been proven.
Witnesses on the plane told local media the crew and most of the passengers remained calm as the plane descended rapidly.
Passengers said they wore the oxygen masks for about 20 minutes before the plane returned to a normal altitude and the flight attendants resumed cabin service. According to local reports, passengers said they applauded when the plane landed in Dalian.