Two pilots working for Air China have been stripped of their licences to fly following an electronic cigarette incident on board. One of the pilots had decided to vape while flying from Hong Kong to Dalian. He attempted to switch off a fan to prevent the vapour from the e-cig reaching the main cabin. However, instead of stopping the fan he switched off the aircon unit.
This led the oxygen levels in the cabin to fall, which in turn caused the crew to initiate an emergency descent. The plane dropped by 10,000 feet and oxygen masks were deployed from above the passengers. It was only after this that the crew realised what had occurred. The aircon was then switched back on to restore the cabin pressure to its normal levels. The plane reached its destination safely, although not without some concern from its passengers, no doubt.
Smoking and vaping are both banned according to aviation regulations issued in China. While Air China did not initially comment on the incident, it insisted a ‘zero tolerance’ approach was employed when considering the actions of its crew members. The revoking of their licences confirms this to be the case. Air China has since been required to perform a safety review lasting three months, while incurring a fine and a drop in the number of flights allowed on Boeing 737s.
No doubt this was a worrying incident for those on board. There are no indications that anyone was in any danger at the time. However, it is obvious the pilot should not have been vaping in this scenario.
This would appear to be an isolated incident and the pilots have paid for it with their licences. What are your thoughts on what happened? Do you agree pilots should be banned from vaping, given what occurred here?