Co-pilot tried to hide e-cigarette smoke, sparked mid-air emergency instead

Passengers were forced to use air masks

Passengers were forced to use air masks

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 airhead aviator was soaring from Hong Kong to the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian in a Boeing 737 jet Tuesday when he tried to stop vapor from his e-cigarette from wafting into the passenger cabin, according to CNN.

Chinese officials said that the plane's co-pilot was vaping in the cockpit.

Instead, he toggled the wrong switches, which were close to his intended target, leading to a drop in oxygen levels that triggered altitude warnings. Pictures and videos posted on social media showed the masks hanging from the ceiling, but no noticeable panic among the passengers.

The flight then levelled off before climbing again to continue on to Dalian.

'Smoke diffused into the passenger cabin and relevant air conditioning components were wrongly shut off, without notifying the captain, which resulted in insufficient oxygen, ' it added.

No Smoking in Public Housing
The announcement was made in November 2016 and gave public housing officials 18 months to comply with the directive. The department cited the adverse risks of secondhand smoke as a major reason for the policy's implementation.

"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", said Qiao Yibin, from the aviation authority's safety office, as quoted by the South China Morning Post.

Once they saw that the air conditioning had been turned off, they reactivated it and brought the flight back to its normal altitude.

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 CAAC said it was continuing the investigation and was analysing the aircraft's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

Air China announced Friday it will fire the pilots of a flight that plunged 25,000 feet this week, after it was found human error caused the plane to plummet.

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