A Chinese airline said it fired the pilots responsible for a massive altitude drop mid-flight when a co-pilot accidentally turned off the plane’s air conditioning in an attempt to conceal smoke from his electronic cigarette, local media reported.
Air China said it terminated the crew’s labor contracts and recommended the Civil Aviation Administration of China revoke the pilots’ licenses after it conducted an internal investigation into the incident, South China Morning Post and China Daily reported.
On a flight from Hong Kong Tuesday, a co-pilot didn’t tell his captain that he turned off a fan that would recirculate air to the main cabin in order to hide vapor from his electronic cigarette.
Except he didn’t turn off the fan — he accidentally shut off the flight’s air conditioning.
Air masks dropped, and the flight carrying 153 passengers and nine crew members plummeted to an altitude of roughly 10,000 feet, the Chinese media outlets reported.
Pilots soon realized the air conditioning was off, the BBC reported. They then brought aircraft back to 26,000 feet and landed safely with no injuries or damage to the plane, according to South China Morning Post.
The incident prompted Air China to launch company-wide safety training and take a “zero-tolerance attitude toward safety violations,” China Daily reported.
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