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Oxygen Masks Deploy as Gulf Air Flight Loses Cabin Pressure, Executes Rapid Descent

Oxygen Masks Deploy as Gulf Air Flight Loses Cabin Pressure, Executes Rapid Descent
Joe Cortez

Gulf Air flight bound for London forced to drop over 30,000 feet in 8 minutes prior to landing after a loss in cabin pressure.

Over 80 passengers aboard a Gulf Air flight bound for London Heathrow Airport (LHR) were given an incredible scare after their aircraft was forced to drop over 30,000 feet out of the sky due to cabin depressurization. Britain’s Daily Mail reports the incident happened on Gulf Air Flight 3 on Sunday, December 13.

The incident began on a regularly scheduled flight from Bahrain to LHR. Midway through the flight, the pilots encountered a technical issue on the Airbus A330 aircraft, which ultimately resulted in a loss of cabin pressure. Even though oxygen masks were deployed, the pilots decided to execute a rapid descent from their cruising altitude of 40,000 feet to maintain the safety of those aboard.

As a result, the aircraft dropped 32,000 feet in eight minutes, descending from their cruising altitude down to 8,000 feet. The flight was ultimately allowed to land without further incident at LHR 40 minutes later. Nobody aboard the flight was injured as a result of the rapid descent or the depressurized cabin.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, a spokesperson for the flag carrier of Bahrain confirmed the incident aboard GF03. Although they did not speculate on the nature of the “technical difficulties,” the airline praised the pilots for their quick decision.

“Gulf Air crew are trained to handle such incidents, as evidenced by the level of professionalism shown by the pilots and cabin crew as well as all of our teams on the ground,” a spokesperson for the airline told the Daily Mail. “The safety, protection and comfort of our passengers and employees are of utmost importance.”

A United Airlines flight operated by ExpressJet experienced a similar situation earlier this year, forcing the pilots to make the decision to descend 10,000 feet over Kentucky. NBC News reports United Airlines Flight 5919 made the descent after cabin depressurization before making an emergency landing in Indianapolis.

[Photo: Aviation Performance]

View Comments (3)


  1. dmkorten

    December 16, 2015 at 11:16 am

    “Even though oxygen masks were deployed, the pilots decided to execute a rapid descent ” – this makes it sound like the pilots had a choice. The oxygen masks are to keep you alive while the plan descends, not to allow for continued cruising at 40,000 feet with no cabin pressure. And dropping out of the sky is a little strong for a controlled, though abnormal, descent.

  2. brocklee9000

    December 16, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I too am confused by the implication that they had a choice. For starters, the oxygen generators cannot just run indefinitely. They are good for a short period of time, maybe 10 minutes or so. At FL400 the cabin altitude is going to be fairly high, but nowhere near 15,000ft which is where passengers must be supplied with supplemental oxygen. The whole point is that if a sudden and sever pressure change occurs (such as a hull loss), they can put on the masks. This is also assuming they can don them quickly enough, but at FL400 the oxygen is so thin and the air so cold that they might have seconds. Since (for whatever reason) they decided passengers didn’t need to use the masks, and there is no indication of anyone being injured or losing consciousness, I surmise that there was some sort of failure with a component of the pressurization system (perhaps one of the packs) and the pilots needed to get down expeditiously as the cabin altitude started rising, but obviously the pressure change was not quick or sudden enough to warrant immediate donning of the oxygen masks.

  3. ChimarraoMate

    December 16, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Funny, I had the same issue with the choice comment. The ‘pure’ oxygen is to hopefully prevent the rapidly expanding nitrogen in the blood from giving passengers Decompression Sickness. Lowering altitude helps shrink the expanded nitrogen bubbles in the blood, just like a decompression chamber will do. I assume they also briefed the flyers feeling ok that they will not be able to catch any connecting flights for 24 hours.

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