Air China sacks copilot smoking e-cigarette on Hong Kong-Dalian flight

The Air China copilot who is accused of smoking an electric cigarette in the cockpit was suspended from flying and sacked, the nation's flagship carrier said on Friday.
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The Flight CA106 made an emergency descent to 3,000 meters, in line with emergency procedures after the copilot mistakenly turned off the cabin air conditioner while smoking the e-cigarette, triggering the altitude alert.

The Air China copilot who is accused of smoking an electric cigarette in the cockpit was suspended from flying and sacked, the nation's flagship carrier said on Friday.

The copilot with Flight CA106 mistakenly turning off the cabin air conditioner while smoking the e-cigarette, causing the emergency descent of the flight from Hong Kong to the northeast city of Dalian on Tuesday.

The carrier said in a statement that it suggested the Civil Aviation Administration of China also revoke the pilot license of the copilot after the completion of the investigation on the incident.

Air China has also severely punished the management staff being responsible for the incident as well as launched an overhaul and safety education among all its employees, the airline said in the statement.

The carrier made the statement on Friday night after the administration publicized the outcome of a primary investigation in the morning.

The Flight CA106 received an altitude alert when the aircraft was midair on Tuesday night. The crew released oxygen masks and made a rapid descent, according to the administration.

The copilot of the flight was attempting to turn off the circulating fan to prevent the smoke and smell of his e-cigarette from spreading to the cabin, but accidentally shut down the nearby switch for the air-conditioning unit, according to the primary investigation of the administration.

The mistake caused an insufficient oxygen supply to the cabin and triggered the altitude alert. Crew then released oxygen masks in the passenger cabin and made an emergency descent to 3,000 meters, in line with emergency procedures.

The crew later realized the mistake and turned the air conditioning back on. The administration noted that the captain was not informed when the copilot turned off the air conditioning.

"If a violation is confirmed, the copilot will be severely punished," Qiao Yibin, a senior official with the aviation safety office of the administration, told a press conference on Friday. The details of the incident are still under investigation.

The aircraft landed safely at Dalian airport at 10:31pm and all 153 passengers and nine crew members were safe.

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