Pilot 'smoking e-cigarette' forces Air China flight to plunge

China's aviation regulator said it was analysing the aircraft's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder

An Air China staff member has been accused of putting a flight in danger after taking a puff of his vape while flying the aircraft.

An Air China jet made a rapid emergency descent after a co-pilot mistakenly turned off air-conditioning systems in a bid to hide his e-cigarette smoke, Chinese media quoted the country's civil aviation authority as saying Friday. The shutdown caused oxygen levels to drop, prompting the plane's emergency systems to instruct the pilots to start descending immediatelly.

According to the South China Morning Post, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has launched an investigation into the incident involving Air China flight CA106.

Instead, the wingman accidentally triggered a drop in oxygen levels, prompting an altitude warning that caused the almost fatal plunge - from 32,800 to 13,100 feet in less than nine minutes, Civil Aviation Administration of China officials told the station.

The unnamed co-pilot will be hit with "severe punishment in accordance with laws and regulations", said senior CAAC official Qiao Yin. The plane then dropped to 10,000 feet before climbing back to about 24,000 feet before arriving in Dalian with sub-par oxygen levels in the cabin.

Rapid loss of cabin pressurization can be deadly.

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Passengers were forced to use air masks.

Hoby Sun, the passenger who provided CNN with the flight altitude data, said everyone was calm when the oxygen masks dropped.

Now we know why this terrifying incident may have occurred.

"I'm not physically hurt, but the psychological impact lingers".

Oxygen masks were also deployed as part of an emergency procedure. Last year, the airline and its subsidiaries carried 102 million passengers across six continents, according to company statistics.

In 2002, a Boeing 767 operated by Air China crashed into a hill in South Korea during bad weather, killing 129 people.

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