The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has launched an investigation after the cabin crew onboard a Virgin Australia Regional Airlines flight reported symptoms of mild hypoxia in-flight.
On 27 December 2021, the Fokker 100, registration VH-FNU msn 11373, took off from Newman, Western Australia, and headed for Perth with three cabin crew, two pilots, and seven passengers onboard as flight VA1896.
During cruise at 34,000 feet, one member of the cabin crew reported they had begun to feel unwell, and was soon treated with portable oxygen, according to the ATSB.
The flight crew then climbed to the aircraft’s maximum cruise altitude of 35,000 feet.
Shortly after, the other two cabin crew onboard also began feeling unwell with similar symptoms and alerted the flight crew that they believed the symptoms could be caused by hypoxia – or insufficient oxygen.
The first officer later reported that they had similarly experienced symptoms of hypoxia, including light-headedness and slight nausea, at the time.
As a precaution, the crew fitted themselves with oxygen masks and manually deployed the overhead passenger oxygen masks for the seven passengers to use.
Simultaneously, the flight crew conducted an emergency descent to 10,000 feet.
The flight landed safely at Perth Airport and one member of the cabin crew was taken to hospital for assessment.
“Upon becoming aware of a reduction in cabin pressurisation, appropriate steps were taken by the flight crew, in line with protocol, to descend to a lower altitude and the aircraft conducted a normal landing in Perth,” a Virgin Australia statement said.
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“There were only a small number of guests onboard, and no ill effects or concerns were reported by them.”
The aircraft, msn 11373, has been in service since 1992, and had been previously operated by US Airways and Jetair. The Fokker 100 has been with VARA, formerly SkyWest Airlines, since 2008.
The ATSB said its investigation into what caused the incident is continuing and evidence is currently being collected.
“Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so that appropriate safety action can be taken,” the safety bureau said.
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