Making fun of people who vape will soon be an American pastime to rival baseball, but generally, those vapers are just annoying -- not causing commercial airline flights to plummet tens of thousands of feet.
But that's exactly what a vaping co-pilot of an Air China flight between Hong Kong and Dalian did on Tuesday. According to CNN, a senior official from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) revealed that the vaping co-pilot meant to turn off the air-recycling system (so passengers wouldn't be subject to his prodigious vape plumes), but by mistake turned off the plane's air-conditioning system. This set off an alarm, released oxygen masks because of reduced oxygen in the cabin, and forced the plane to descend from 32,800 feet to 13,100 feet in under nine minutes.
Air conditioning and cabin pressure were then restored once the crew figured out what went wrong, and the flight returned to cruising altitude and continued on as scheduled. The 153 passengers were reportedly shaken by the deployment of oxygen masks, as you might imagine.
“I didn’t think too much of it at the time -- we didn’t know what was going on, nor did the flight attendants it seemed,” a passenger told CNN. “I’m not physically hurt, but the psychological impact lingers. When I close my eyes, I see the oxygen masks dangling in front of me.”
A CAAC official vowed "severe punishment in accordance with laws and regulations," if regulator's findings confirm the initial report. Air China fired the entire flight deck crew.