Cebu Pacific Suffers Cabin Pressurization System Malfunction

Cebu Pacific Suffers Cabin Pressurization System Malfunction

On December 1, 2022, a Cebu Pacific Air departing from Seoul/Incheon, South Korea to Cebu, Philippines made an emergency landing after the aircraft’s cabin pressurization system had issues creating panic among passengers onboard.

Cebu Pacific A320 Suffers Cabin Pressurization System Malfunction

The incident involved last Thursday with the aircraft registered as RP-C3277, a nine-year-old Airbus A320-200. The flight was operating as 5J129, carrying 182 passengers and crew members on a routine flight from Seoul (ICN) to Cebu (CEB) in the evening.

Based on the flight history, the flight took off without an issue as scheduled around 22:35 PM and was cruising at 34,000ft. However, after 40 minutes of flight, as the aircraft was nearing Jeju, there was a sudden malfunction in the aircraft’s cabin pressurization system, filling the aircraft with foggy fumes and mists.

Cebu Pacific Air 5J129 Flight Path (Source: Flightradar24.com)

The footage taken by one of the passengers on board this affected flight, clearly shows the cabin is foggy with a fume event, a condition when bleed air used for cabin pressurization and air conditioning in a pressurized aircraft to be contaminated or damaged, allowing contaminated air to flow in the cabin.

In the interview with passengers, they said the smoke was so full in the cabin that it was impossible to see, and some passengers reportedly showed symptoms such as headache and shortness of breath due to the smell of the combusted fuel flowing directly into the cabin.

Cebu Pacific A320 Suffers Cabin Pressurization System Malfunction

The Cause Of The Cabin Pressure System Malfunction On Cebu Pacific

While the official details of the incident have not been released, a representative of Cebu Pacific Air at Incheon International Airport said:

“There was a problem with the pressurizer. It’s not a fire, but the air circulation (due to a technical problem), the smell of the burning fuel, seems to have entered the cabin.”

The aircraft, upon landing, was taken to a maintenance facility for a close inspection and the issue seems to be fixed. And on Friday, December 2, 2022, the aircraft flew without an issue to Cebu carrying the passengers.

Since there was no official announcement, I am not sure what the exact issues were but based on the footage and reports, it seems there was an issue with the pressurization system or some mechanical failure of the outflow valves from the engine bleed valve that connects to the cabin system.

Thankfully, no one was seriously injured during this scary incident. I am thankful that the pilots on Cebu Pacific made a quick emergency descent from 34,000ft to 9,500 feet within 6 minutes time. For information, on altitudes at 10,000ft or below, the levels of oxygen are considered to have little effect on aircrew and healthy passengers. This is the reason why if there are cabin pressurization issues, the pilot quickly descent to 10,000ft in most cases.

After the arrival, the airline tried to arrange alternative flights, but it was difficult to find direct flights, so the airline proposed a flight via Manila that was scheduled to depart at midnight. However, this was also difficult to board all passengers as the aircraft to Manila was operated with an A321neo. Some passengers have asked for refunds, saying they are afraid to ride the problematic aircraft again.

Cabin Pressurization System Malfunctions Are Scary

The smooth airflow and breathing on board at high altitudes are due to the existence of a cabin pressurization system. But what if this system fails? Then the consequences can be deadly depending on the situation.

An example of a notable accident due to pressurization system failure can be found in Helios Airways, a Cypriot airline that crashed in Greece following the incapacitation of the crew due to Hypoxia. The cause of the accident was a series of failures of response by the pilots and maintenance failure.

Summary

Cebu Pacific Air flight 5J129 suffered a cabin pressurization system malfunction during the fight from Seoul/Incheon to Cebu on December 1, 2022. The aircraft safely returned after an hour of flight to Incheon International Airport and went into inspection.

Thankfully, no one was injured and passengers were re-accommodated to the next flight to Cebu the next day on the same affected aircraft. However, some passengers who were on the alternative airline operated by Philippine Airlines had to divert once more due to hydraulics failure.

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