A dramatic emergency descent made by an Air China plane earlier in the week has been linked to a co-pilot smoking an e-cigarette, which caused oxygen levels to drop in the cabin, China's aviation regulator says.
The Air China Boeing 737 aircraft was flying to the Chinese city of Dalian from Hong Kong on Tuesday when it made the emergency descent to 3048m before climbing altitude again to continue the journey.
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Oxygen masks dropped down for passengers when the plane dramatically lost altitude.
"In the preliminary investigation, the co-pilot was found to be smoking an e-cigarette," state-owned China News said in a report, citing a news conference by the Civil Aviation Administration of China investigating Tuesday's incident.
"Smoke diffused into the passenger cabin and relevant air conditioning components were wrongly shut off, without notifying the captain, which resulted in insufficient oxygen," it added.