Following on from a similar incident in August three more oxygen bottles have been found empty aboard Cathay Pacific aircraft. As Hong Kong authorities brace themselves for another weekend of pro-democracy demonstrations, beleaguered Hong Kong carrier Cathy Pacific’s problems continue unabated.
Now after three more oxygen bottles are found to have been tampered with today, Friday the 20th of September the Hong Kong aviation regulator has told Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon to improve their security.
The Civil Aviation Department said in a statement carried by the South China Morning Post:
“In view of the similar incidents that have occurred since the safety inspections were implemented, we have summoned the chief executives of both airlines to request security inspection procedures are further enhanced.”
This statement comes after a five-week-long investigation to determine who tampered with 13 bottles aboard two flights which arrived in Toronto on August 17th and 18th.
The latest incident occurred four days ago on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Osaka. In this instance, one of the oxygen bottles had its shutoff valve opened by mistake during a routine safety check by the crew.
In two other more serious incidents that we are just finding out about today, oxygen bottles were emptied on two Cathay Dragon flights from Kaohsiung and Da Nang on September 1st and 4th.
The emptied oxygen canisters pose no danger
If the aircraft you were flying in suddenly lost pressure individual passenger oxygen masks would be automatically deployed for each seat on the aircraft.
Because the cabin crew needs to move about the aircraft, when pressure is lost they have small portable oxygen bottles that allow them to go about their duties. Prior to any aircraft departure, safety procedures ensure that all the crew oxygen bottles are checked.
This measure means that no aircraft would be allowed to leave without sufficient oxygen bottles for the crew.
Cathay Pacific has informed the CAD and police
Cathay Pacific released a statement about the oxygen bottle tampering witch read:
“We have informed the CAD and police of six instances where some portable oxygen bottles stored on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon aircraft had been found to be in a low-pressure state,” an airline spokeswoman said in a statement.
“The issues were all identified during routine inspections that are carried out before and after every flight.”
Meanwhile, a Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (CAD) spokesperson told the South China Morning Post:
“For reasons of aviation security, we are not in a position to disclose details.”
She then added that the CAD was “highly concerned” about the six incidents.
Cathay Pacific has implemented more checks
Following these latest incidents, Cathay Pacific has strengthened its security measures and now checks the oxygen bottles every sixty minutes instead of just before and after flights. Another measure the airline has implemented is using the ground crew to also check the bottles and account for everyone who enters the plane.
When speaking about the new measures general manager of group safety and operational risk management Richard Howell told the South China Morning Post:
“Running a safe and secure operation is and always will be our greatest priority. We have robust pre-flight checks in place to identify any irregularities and to ensure all emergency equipment is serviceable, so that the safety of our crew and passengers is upheld at all times.
“We have communicated with our cabin crew and employees the importance of maintaining impeccable safety standards at all times. There is no compromise in this area,” he added.
Following the latest incidents, more cabin crew have been suspended while investigations into the matter continue.
Since the protest began Cathay Pacific has seen a decline in passenger’s numbers and especially so on flights operating between the former British colony and Mainland China.
While tampering with crew oxygen bottles may be nothing more than a nuisance given the safety protocols, the fear is that a pro-democracy sympathizer may do something that could endanger lives.