Pilot smoking an E-cigarette forces flight to plummet 20,000ft, terrifying passengers

Pilot smoking an E-cigarette forces flight to plummet 20,000ft, terrifying passengers

Recent years have seen an update to the script of the aeroplane safety procedure demonstrations. It goes something along the lines of: "Passengers are reminded that smoking on board is strictly prohibited. This includes the use of electronic cigarettes". While first-time-flyers might be excused for not knowing these rules before they're broadcast to passengers, you'd think that those working in the industry, that or on board, who are flying the darn thing, would know the rules about smoking on board too.

Yet, incredibly, one pilot has managed to terrify his passengers after his vape caused the flight to drop an alarming 20,000 feet. The Air China co-pilot who reportedly puffed away on his e-cigarette mid-flight is currently being investigated after he forced the plane into an emergency descent. It's said that the vapour or "smoke" from the device entered the cabin, after which the air conditioning system was shut off.

air china pilot e-cigarette vape on board e-cigarette Credit: Pixabay

BBC cited Chinese investigators by reporting that the first officer of the Air China flight CA106 "accidentally" shut off the air conditioning. Other reports add that the Civil Aviation Administration of China's preliminary investigations found that the co-pilot had tried to turn off a circulation fan without telling the pilot, in order to prevent smoke or smells from his vape to reach the cabin. The CAAC determined this after seizing the aircraft's flight data and voice recorders, as well as by interviewing crew members.

“[But the co-pilot] mistakenly switched off the air-conditioning unit that was next to it, resulting in insufficient oxygen in the cabin and an altitude warning,” said Qiao Yibin from the CAAC's safety office at a press briefing on Friday.

Passengers inside the cabin were left with insufficient oxygen as a result, which meant masks dropped from the ceiling as they started to make an emergency descent about half an hour after take-off.

The Boeing 737 had departed from Hong Kong at 7:10pm local time, bound for Dalian in northwest China on Tuesday. The aeroplane was forced to drop 20,000 feet after the air conditioning system disruption. While they were expected to make an emergency landing, the system was restored and they eventually resumed their flight course at their intended altitude. They continued on to land safely at their destination.

The 153 passengers on board must have been rightfully alarmed and could have feared for the worst as they dropped altitude so suddenly and oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Nine crew members were also aboard the aircraft.

While no injuries were sustained and the aircraft remained undamaged, the co-pilot found guilty of smoking his e-cigarette mid-flight, as well as the "related crew", have been fired.

“After an investigation to verify the incident, the decision is to suspend the related crew from flying and terminate the contracts in accordance with the law. The crew members who are responsible for the incident have been seriously dealt with,” Air China said on Friday night.

The statement was issued on the Chinese social media site Weibo, and the airline also recommended CAAC to revoke the pilots' licenses after completing their own investigations.