An Air China flight crew had to enact emergency protocols during a flight from Hong Kong to the city of Dalian on Tuesday, all because a co-pilot tried to sneak in a vape break.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) began investigating the alarming incident and found that the co-pilot tried to turn off air-recycling fans so that his vape plumes wouldn’t reach the passengers. Unfortunately, he hit the wrong switch, shutting off the air-conditioning system, which affected the oxygen levels in the cabin.
When the oxygen levels dropped, the BBC reports the crew released the oxygen masks for the 153 passengers on board. And because of the pressure drop, the Boeing 737 descended from 32,800 feet to just 13,100 feet in less than nine minutes, according to CNN.
One of the passengers spoke to CNN about their experience. “I didn’t think too much of it at the time—we didn’t know what was going on, nor did the flight attendants it seemed,” Hoby Sun told CNN. “I’m not physically hurt, but the psychological impact lingers. When I close my eyes, I see the oxygen masks dangling in front of me.”
The BBC reports that the flight crew eventually realised the air conditioning had been turned off, reengaged it, and returned the plane to its normal altitude.
According to CNN, CAAC senior official Qiao Yibin told reporters on Friday that the organisation would administer “severe punishment in accordance with laws and regulations.” Air China said in a public statement that it had fired the entire flight deck crew. [CNN/BBC]