Okay, you vape. You certainly didn’t have to drop the plane 21,000 feet.
During an Air China flight from Hong Kong to the city of Dalian, a co-pilot inadvertently forced a plane to drop 21,000 feet after shutting off the air-conditioning. According to BBC, the co-pilot had been smoking an e-cigarette and wanted to prevent passengers from smelling it.
The co-pilot shut off a fan—or so he thought. But he actually turned off the air-conditioning without telling the captain, which forced the captain to initiate emergency maneuvers to lower the plane’s altitude.
Passengers got the surprise of their lives when oxygen masks dropped from the ceilings and they were told to put on their seat belts. Unaware that it just required the flip of a switch, the captain lowered the plane’s altitude by 21,000 feet.
When he eventually realized the air-conditioning had been switched off, he rectified the problem and returned the flight to cruising altitude.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration looked into the incident and discovered the co-pilot had been using an e-cigarette, which violates a 2006 ban imposed on Chinese flights. After a more thorough investigation, Air China made the decision to fire the pilots involved.
A spokesperson for the airline said:
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.
The Chinese microblogging site Weibo confirmed that the Civil Aviation Administration of China revoked the pilots’ licenses after performing its own investigation.
No passengers were injured during the drop, and the Boeing 737 involved, a four-year-old plane registered as B-5851, has not been used for any flights since.