China Eastern Airbus A330 Suffers Depressurisation At 33,000 Feet

A China Eastern Airbus A330 was forced to abandon its flight following a depressurization at FL331. The aircraft was flying from Shenzhen to Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport. At this time, no injuries appear to have been sustained as a result of the incident.

China Eastern, Airbus A330, depressurisation
A China Eastern Airbus A330 suffered a sudden depressurization today. Photo: Kiefer via Wikimedia

The aircraft was late in departing from Shenzhen, and due to the depressurization, was forced to divert to Nanchang. The aircraft made an emergency descent to around 12,000 feet to help restore the cabin pressure. Following the diversion, the passengers were eventually ferried to their destination on a smaller replacement aircraft.

What happens when an aircraft depressurizes?

Almost all commercial passenger aircraft cruise at heights where passengers wouldn’t be able to breathe unaided. As air pressure decreases with altitude, the air becomes much less dense. As a result, there will be far fewer air molecules occupying a set space.

Should the aircraft face a sudden depressurization, the inside air pressure will match the outside air pressure. With a lack of oxygen at high altitudes, passengers and crew would soon start to experience hypoxia. Hypoxia is when the body starts to suffer from a lack of oxygen. One of the most well-known symptoms of hypoxia is blacking out.

China Eastern, Airbus A330, Depressurisation
The aircraft was flying from Shenzhen to Shanghai. Photo: Triple Tree via Wikimedia

When an aircraft depressurization occurs, oxygen masks should automatically drop from the panel above your head as is shown in the safety demonstration. However, these only contain a limited supply of oxygen. They are more to be used as a temporary measure while the flight crew descends the aircraft to a level where passengers can breath unassisted once more. In 2005, a Greek aircraft crashed after all onboard had suffered from hypoxia.

China Eastern Flight MU-5352

On the 12th of November, China Eastern flight 5352 was due to fly from Shenzhen to Shanghai, operated by an Airbus A330 registered as B-6083. The aircraft was due to depart at 17:30, however, it did not get airborne until 18:01. While en route, the aircraft suffered a sudden depressurization.

China Eastern, Airbus A330, depressurisation
The aircraft diverted to Nanchang. Photo: Anna Zevereva via Wikimedia

As a result of the depressurization, the aircraft made an emergency descent southeast of Nanchang. While the aircraft was scheduled to arrive in Shanghai at 19:55, it instead arrived in Nanchang at 19:21.

Here the passengers waited for a replacement Airbus A321 to pick them up. This departed from Nanchang at 23:37, and landing in Shanghai at 00:42 the next day, almost five hours after it was originally due. According to the Av Herald, China Eastern said the aircraft diverted due to a mechanical failure.

Have you been on an aircraft that depressurized in flight? Let us know your experiences in the comments!