Ryanair Jet Did Not “Plunge” 26,000 Feet

I swear, I’m going to have to change the name of this blog to Cranky Mythbusters, because there is just so much ridiculous stuff flying around the media right now. Once again, it’s my favorite whipping boy, the AP. This time, the title of the report is “Mid-air panic as plane plunges 26,000 feet.” Will someone please put a muzzle on these guys?

The story is this. Ryanair Flight Plunging (Not Really)A Ryanair flight was traveling from Bristol in the UK to Girona (outside Barcelona). It lost pressure at altitude and quickly descended in order to get to an altitude with breathable air, 8,000 feet. Then the plane diverted to Limoges, the nearest airport.

The AP article would make you believe that the plane plunged 26,000 feet as a result of the depressurization, but that’s absolutely ridiculous. The plane quickly descended because that’s how pilots are supposed to respond when the plane depressurizes.

See, those oxygen masks are attached to tanks that don’t have a ton of oxygen in them. They’re basically there to tide you over for a few minutes until you can get down to a level where you can breathe on your own. So as soon as a plane loses pressure, the pilots purposefully go into a steep descent to make sure that you don’t run out of oxygen. (The pilots, by the way, have more oxygen available for themselves.)

So the AP goes out there and hears the cries of terror from passengers and decides to pounce on it. The passengers were freaking out because, well, they were descending very quickly, and the pilots didn’t come on right away to say anything. You know why? The pilots were too busy actually trying to keep them from running out of air! Once the plane was stabilized at a lower altitude, they were able to come on and talk about what was happening, but priority number one is to get everyone to safety. Then they talk to the passengers.

If you’d like to learn more, I recommend going to this highly respectable report from the BBC that describes aircraft depressurization in much more detail. Kudos to them for actually reporting correctly on this. As for the AP, just ignore them.

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