The Australian Safety Transport Bureau (ATSB) has launched an inquiry into an instance of cabin crew incapacitation on a Virgin Australia regional aircraft between Newman and Perth, Australia.
The Virgin Australia Fokker F100 aircraft, registered as VH-FNU, was conducting a scheduled passenger flight VA-1896 from Newman Airport (ZNE) to Perth Airport (PER) on December 27, 2021, according to the Australian transport safety authority. On board were seven passengers and five crew members.
One of the cabin crew members reported feeling unwell while the jet was travelling at a flight altitude of 340 (34,000 ft), and was treated with portable oxygen onboard.
Meanwhile, the crew of the Fokker F100 airplane soared to flight level 350. (35,000 ft). The other two cabin crew members began to feel uncomfortable a few minutes into the climb and informed the pilots that they feared hypoxia based on their symptoms.
The first officer began to feel dizzy and nauseated, both of which are symptoms of hypoxia.
Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen in the bodily tissues that can lead to weariness, confusion, decreased decision-making and performance, and mortality.
The partial pressure of oxygen is reduced at high altitudes, resulting in hypoxia. The solution is to pressurize the cabin.
The pilots put on their oxygen masks as a precaution, manually deployed the passenger oxygen masks in the cabin, and immediately dropped the plane to 10,000 feet. That’s the height at which cabin pressurization isn’t necessary.
One cabin crew member was transferred to the local hospital for medical evaluation upon arrival in PER.
“The investigation is continuing. 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 ATSB statement reads.
In the third quarter of 2022, the Australian authority plans to complete the inquiry and provide a full final report.