At a time when flying is terrifying as all hell, we trust pilots to be especially alert in the cockpit, working diligently to ensure that even if a cabin window cracks or the plane gets caught in a hailstorm or something, everyone onboard will be all right. But when an Air China plane suddenly dropped 20,000 feet mid-flight last week, one of the pilots at the helm was far from in control—he'd allegedly sent passengers plummeting toward the ground while he was vaping in the cockpit.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the co-pilot of a Tuesday flight from Hong Kong to Dalian decided to unwind during his trip by ripping an e-cig in the cockpit, presumably just after the flight attendants announced that smoking or vaping onboard is definitely illegal, South China Morning Post reports. Alas—because his need for a sweet, sweet hit was just that dire—the pilot went ahead and vaped anyway.
Worried that his pungent vapor might seep into the cabin, the pilot allegedly tried to turn off an air recycling fan to keep it contained—essentially trying to hotbox the cockpit. But he wound up shutting off the flow of air from outside of the plane, triggering a major drop in oxygen levels, Yahoo News reports. Over the next ten minutes, the plane made a dramatic 20,000-foot drop while oxygen masks deployed down to the plane's 153 passengers.
“[The co-pilot] mistakenly switched off the air-conditioning unit," an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China told the Morning Post, "resulting in insufficient oxygen in the cabin and an altitude warning."
Without enough oxygen in the cabin, the passengers and crew could've wound up vomiting or passing out. You'd think that might be enough to convince the pilots to make an emergency landing—especially when planes have been grounded over people lighting up joints in the lavatories—but the pilots eventually regained control and brought the plane back to its cruising altitude.
Thankfully everyone onboard was alright, and the plane managed to reach Dalian safely. Air China reportedly fired both of the pilots and suspended the rest of the crew, sending a stern message to anyone who thinks ripping a JUUL while you're flying a goddamn plane is a good idea.
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