Vaping Co-Pilot Caused Plane to Plummet

Passengers were forced to use air masks

An emergency descent which saw an Air China plane drop thousands of feet allegedly took place after a co-pilot started smoking an e-cigarette during the flight.

Air China flight CA106, en route from Hong Kong to the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian, descended from above 10,000 meters to below 4,000 meters n less than nine minutes Tuesday shortly after it reached cruising altitude, according to phone Global Positioning System data shared with CNN by a passenger on board.

In a video of Flight CA106 obtained by the Beijing News, a flight attendant is seen walking down the aisle to check on passengers, some of who are putting on oxygen masks in response to a pre-recorded announcement in Chinese and English asking them to do so.

"In the preliminary investigation, the co-pilot was found to be smoking an e-cigarette", China News reported of the Civil Aviation Administration of China's findings, citing a news conference.

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

He then mistakenly switched off the air-conditioning unit while attempting to turn on air-recycling fans - causing an alarm to sound when smoke leaked into the cabin and oxygen levels plunged.

The flight landed safely in Dalian at 10:29 pm.

In a statement to the South China Morning Post, Air China initially said if an "investigation reveals the crew violated regulations, the company will deal with those responsible with zero tolerance".

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The CAAC said it had requested the aircraft's flight data and cockpit voice recorder as part of its probe.

Air China said it would terminate the contracts of the employees involved in the emergency descent incident, and suggested that the CAAC cancel their licences, it said on its official account on China's Weibo.

Chinese investigators announced their findings July 13, three days after the July 10 incident, which occurred aboard Flight CA106 from Hong Kong to Dalian 30 minutes after its 5:55 p.m. takeoff, BBC reports.

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