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10 Cathay Pacific Flights Have Been Tampered With and We Still Don’t Know Who’s Doing It

10 Cathay Pacific Flights Have Been Tampered With and We Still Don’t Know Who’s Doing It
Jeff Edwards

An investigation into cases of alleged sabotage of safety equipment on Cathay Pacific aircraft has taken on a new life after the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (CAD) summoned the chiefs of both Cathay and subsidiary Cathay Dragon, demanding answers as at least three new cases involving discharged emergency oxygen bottles have come to light in recent days.

Cathay Pacific officials have dismissed the notion that any of the airline’s employees are behind three new instances in which emergency oxygen bottles have apparently been tampered with, but regulators are not convinced. According to a report in the South China Morning Post, the heads of both Cathay Pacific and subsidiary Cathay Dragon were summoned before the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (CAD) following the latest incidents.

“The CAD expresses concern and disappointment about the occurrence of similar incidents again, and has recalled the management of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, requesting the two airlines seriously follow up on the incidents,” the agency told the newspaper in a statement.

Partially and completely discharged portable emergency oxygen bottles were first discovered on a Cathay Pacific plane at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). The latest three incidents bring the total number of Cathay and Cathay Dragon aircraft affected to ten. An investigation into the prior cases led to several crew members being temporarily suspended from duty (until being cleared) and ultimately cost two flight attendants their jobs. In announcing an investigation into the more recent cases of apparent tampering, the company said it did not believe any of its employees were responsible.

“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,” Cathay security chief Richard Howell said in a statement prior to the three most recent cases of tampering coming to light. “Accordingly, we have further strengthened our security measures by adding inflight and post-landing checks for all of our flights. 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.”

While the internal investigation by the Hong Kong-based carrier determined that the two fired crew members had misused the safety equipment, investigators stopped short of assigning malicious intent to their actions. The alleged tampering was first discovered not long after reports first began to emerge about police in Hong Kong using tear gas to disperse sometimes violent anti-government protests – a situation in which (as either a bystander or participant) having a portable oxygen container might come in handy.

Although airline officials described the tampering as serious, they insisted that passengers were never put at risk at any time. The carrier says oxygen bottles affected were portable units for crew use and are separate from the aircraft’s built-in emergency oxygen system. Investigators noted that the issues were discovered during routine safety checks and there were redundancies in place to guarantee safe flight operations. In fact, each plane involved carried between 7 and 22 bottles of portable oxygen with only a small fraction of those bottles found to have been discharged.

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