“In the event that pilots begin smoking, oxygen masks will fall down…” That should have been the announcement last week when an Air China flight dropped 25,000 feet in 10 minutes following the co-pilot’s decision to smoke in the cockpit.
During the flight in question from Hong Kong to Dalian, the co-pilot (whose name has not been disclosed) ‘vaped’ an e-cigarette and tried to turn off the circulation fan in order to prevent the smoke filtering into the cabin. Instead he switched off an air conditioning unit, which left the cabin with an insufficient amount of oxygen. This prompted the emergency masks to fall down onto the seats of 153 unsuspecting passengers.
If a plane loses cabin pressure, standard operating procedure is to bring it to a lower altitude to keep crew and passengers safe. The plane later regained altitude and landed safely in Dalian, according to the CAAC (the Civil Aviation Administration of China). However, the CAAC fined the airline and cut the carrier’s flights with Boeing 737 models by 10%. Both the pilots have been suspended from flight duty and almost certainly won’t be returning to the skies as the airline wants their licences revoked.
Smoking has been banned on flights since 2000 but in 2015 an elderly Chinese passenger was caught smoking on a Cathay Pacific flight and fined. He argued that he did not know that lighting up was illegal and due to his illiteracy he could not read the signs warning that “smoking is strictly prohibited”, according to the South China Morning Post. Of course, Air China’s naughty pilots can hardly muster the same excuse.
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