A Shenzhen Airlines Airbus A330-300 today suffered a sudden loss of cabin pressure at 9,100 meters (FL300). The aircraft rapidly descended to a safe altitude, dropping some 9,000 m in under two minutes. The plane returned to its origin airport at Shenzhen, landing safely less than two hours later.
An emergency descent
The A330 was performing a routine flight from Shenzhen to Xian under the flight number ZH-9209. Almost 25 minutes into the flight, after climbing out of Shenzhen’s Bao’an International Airport, the crew noted an abnormal pressurization of the cabin, and proceeded to descend to a safe altitude.
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The plane is reported to have ‘plunged’ more than 9,000 m in under two minutes, likely a frightening experience for the passengers. At this point, the crew sent out an emergency 7700 squawk.
Shenzhen Airlines Airbus A330-300 (B-302E) experienced pressurization issues about 20 min after takeoff at FL300 on flight #ZH9209 from Shenzhen to Xi'an. Pilots made an emergency descend to FL110 before returning safely to land. @globaltimesnewshttps://t.co/ooAvazyqkP pic.twitter.com/aqB2Uv3SKf
— JACDEC (@JacdecNew) August 9, 2020
Five minutes later, it seems that the pilots tried to climb again. However, the ascent was aborted at around 6,000 meters (FL197). The aircraft then turned back and landed safely back in Shenzhen about 100 minutes after departure.
As of now, there is not a huge amount of available information on the incident. It is known that all the passengers and crew onboard the aircraft are safe and no one was injured seriously. An alternate Airbus A330-300 with registration B-1036 completed the flight with a delay of about 4.5 hours. The involved aircraft is still on the ground about 10 hours after landing.
Although the loss of cabin pressure is not a frequent phenomenon, there have been many such instances in the past. Frequent fliers will relate to pre-departure announcements, which advise passengers to use the oxygen masks if a loss in pressure occurs. Though it might sound scary, having a knowledge of such a situation can prove to be very vital.
Aircraft cabins are pressurized using cooled, and filtered air bled from the engines, keeping the air pressure inside the cabin at the equivalent of an altitude of around 8000 feet. This is done in order to create a safe and comfortable environment for passengers and crew flying at high altitudes. Significantly lowering cabin pressure can have fatal consequences on passengers onboard.
Cabin pressure loss can be either slow or sudden. Technical problems, for example, failure of pressurization systems are one of the most common causes. However, very dangerous situations, for example, cracks in windows or the fuselage, incorrectly sealed doors, and explosion on an aircraft, can cause a sudden pressure drop.
In most cases, loss of cabin pressure is known to be a handleable situation. Immediate response is very significant as far as the safety of those onboard is concerned. Any delay can prove to be fatal as passengers or crew can have hypoxia or a lack of sufficient oxygen.
In 2005, a Helios Airways plane en route from Cyprus to Athens crashed into a mountain after a loss of cabin pressure, killing all 115 passengers and six crew onboard. It was later found that pilots fell unconscious as they suffered hypoxia. In 2018, more than 30 Ryanair passengers, some bleeding from their ears, received injuries after their plane lost cabin pressure at 36,000 feet.
Have you ever been in a stressful situation like this? Let us know.