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Air Peace passengers escape by whiskers’ as expert explains cabin pressure loss

It was narrow escape for passengers Friday last week as Air Peace airline’s scheduled flights were disrupted due to the depressurisation challenge on its Lagos-Enugu flight.

This is coming weeks after newly ordered new passenger jets began arriving to expand both domestic and international operations. The airline had few months ago sealed a financing deal with Fidelity Bank to bankroll delivery of 10 new set of air crafts of which about six had arrived. It was not clear if the affected flight was one of the new air planes.
Though the Corporate chief of the airline, Mr Chris Iwarah, while apologising to the airline’s clients, said the development compelled it to declare the aircraft unserviceable in line with matters of safety, leading aviation safety pundit and retied pilot, Capt. Ugonna Anyadike gave an overview of cabin pressure loss.
Giving insights in a telephone interview from his base in Canada, Capt. Anyadike noted that “Air at higher altitudes is under less pressure and is therefore harder to inhale—the molecules of oxygen are literally farther apart. This is why when you visit a city like Denver, which is about a mile above sea level, you may notice that you tire more easily: you’re getting less oxygen to your muscles and brain”.
“Planes flying above 10,000 feet need to pressurize the cabin so that they can maintain a high enough oxygen level for everyone on-board to function, though they don’t actually pressurize it to sea-level pressures (it’s usually more like the 8,000 ft mark). A normally functioning plane, once sealed off at the gate, will automatically raise the pressure inside smoothly as the pressure outside drops, so that ideally you don’t notice it much. The same thing happens in reverse at the other end to bring everything back to normal.
On why an unpressurized plane dangerous remains dangerous, the expert averred that “This loss of pressure seems to have popped some of the small blood vessels in people’s noses and ears, or perhaps even ruptured some eardrums—none of that is unheard of for a depressurization event”. “Your body is really only designed to work within a small range of pressures pretty close to sea level, and when you go outside that zone delicate areas get damaged. Fluid and gas are both far more susceptible to pressure than solid flesh, so these bits go first. You actually experience a minor version of this in airplanes or even in fast-moving elevators: your ears pop.
“There’s a little membranous vessel called the Eustachian tube inside your ear that rebalances the pressure between the atmosphere and your inner ear (there’s a little pocket of air in there). Changes in pressure can block the Eustachian tube, making a tiny, painful vacuum in that inner ear bubble. Chewing gum or even sucking on a hard candy alleviates that issue because the act of swallowing opens up your Eustachian tube.
According to Capt. Anyadike, “All this is to say that your ears are very sensitive to pressure changes, so bleeding from the ears might not be all that surprising given the lack of pressure on this aircraft. Similarly, delicate blood vessels can rupture in the nose”.
On how does this even happens, he disclosed that “A lot of the time when a plane suddenly depressurizes, it’s because some kind of damage has occurred and the airtight seal keeping the pressure inside the aircraft is broken”.
“Large aircraft are well equipped to handle this, because air masks drop and provide enough oxygen to for the pilots to get the plane down to 10,000 feet or below, where the air is dense enough to keep everyone alive and functioning. It’s crucial that this drop happen immediately, because perhaps the most dangerous part of losing pressure—despite the dramatic explosions you’ve seen in the movies—is hypoxia.
“Hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen, can be remarkably hard to recognize but also completely destroys your ability to function. And it happens really fast.
He said in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that “The ability to take corrective and protective action is lost in 20 to 30 minutes at 18,000 feet and 5 to 12 minutes at 20,000 feet, followed soon thereafter by unconsciousness.” Many commercial planes fly well above that, at around 35,000 feet, and at that altitude, you have 30 seconds to a minute of what’s called “time of useful consciousness”—the time in which you’re capable of making decisions like “should I put this oxygen mask on my face?”
“That’s why passengers are told to put their own masks on before helping their children; it sounds like a heartless instruction, but parents who put kids first might not have the wherewithal to save themselves once they’re done,” Capt. Anyadike added.
Air Peace had issued a statement explaining that “On Friday, December 14, 2018, our Lagos-Enugu flight had a depressurisation challenge, compelling us to declare it unserviceable upon safely landing at the destination in line with our strict safety standards. Although depressurisation is a common occurrence in aviation, we sincerely regret that the incident led to the disruption of our Enugu-Lagos service and other flights the aircraft was scheduled to operate. We are indeed sorry for the resultant inconvenience caused our esteemed customers.
“We have, however, made alternative arrangements to ensure the operation of the Enugu-Lagos and other services the aircraft was scheduled to do, while our team of engineers conducts proper checks on the aircraft, which has since been ferried to our base.
“We assure members of the flying public and our crew that we will continue to accord their safety a prime place in our operations and always act in their best interest. We urge our valued customers to continue to trust us to deliver the best flight experience to them.
“We quite understand the expectations of our esteemed customers, especially during the Yuletide and we wish to assure them that we will neither disappoint nor take their patronage and loyalty to our brand for granted,” Chris Iwarah appologised.