Air China co-pilot was smoking e-cigarette and made error leading to plane’s 25,000-foot plunge, Chinese aviation authority reveals

14-Jul-2018 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The co-pilot of an Air China flight that plummeted 25,000 feet in 10 minutes on Tuesday after leaving Hong Kong was smoking an electronic cigarette and made an error that forced the plane’s emergency descent, the state aviation regulator revealed on Friday.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said preliminary investigations found that the co-pilot had, without telling the pilot, attempted to turn off a circulation fan to prevent smoke from reaching the cabin.

“[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, of the authority’s safety office, at a press briefing, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

“At present, we are investigating the cause in greater detail, and if the investigation proves it is true, we will handle it according to the law and regulations and deal with it seriously.”

Air China’s website says smoking is strictly prohibited on all its flights. It is clearly stated that e-cigarettes are also banned.

On Tuesday, half an hour after flight CA106 carrying 153 passengers and nine crew members left Hong Kong International Airport, oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling, and the plane descended to 10,000 feet as it was travelling between Shantou and Xiamen.

The Boeing 737 later climbed back to 26,000 feet and arrived safely at its destination. No injuries were reported, and the aircraft was not damaged, the CAAC said on Thursday.

The regulator also announced its seizure of flight data and the cockpit voice recorder, and said it had questioned the nine crew members.

Air China previously said it had focused its investigations on the pilots, following claims that the crew had been smoking in the cockpit. If the allegations held true, it would deal with those responsible with “zero tolerance”, the airline said.

Aviation experts have questioned the pilots’ decision to continue with the journey despite having used up emergency oxygen supplies after the sudden descent.

David Newbery, president of the Hong Kong Airline Pilots Association and a Cathay Pacific Airways pilot, said: “If the oxygen masks had been deployed, it would be foolhardy to [continue flying] because there would be no oxygen left in the event of a subsequent depressurisation.”

Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of the AirlineRatings website, which produces an annual air safety ranking, said: “We are still yet to get all the details but this would appear to be an extremely unusual event.

“China and Chinese airlines are now rated among the safest in the world with an excellent safety record in recent times. Hopefully airlines and crews will learn from this incident.”

Following the mid-flight drama, the four year-old plane registered as B-5851 was flown without passengers to Beijing on Wednesday night and has not been used for any flights since, according to tracking website FlightRadar24.

https://sg.news.yahoo.com/air-china-co-pilot-smoking-062258294.html

 


Category: China

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