Qantas Flight Loses Pressure, Drops 26,000 Feet

Oxygen masks were deployed and passengers were panicked after a Qantas flight traveling from Adelaide to Melbourne suddenly lost pressure and dropped 26,000 feet on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the airline tells AFP an air conditioning problem is the likely cause behind the depressurization, which prompted the jet to drop from its cruising altitude of 36,000 feet to 10,000 feet.

"There are two air conditioning systems on the aircraft -- one of them failed at the cruising altitude, that's when they started to descend," says the spokesman.

"The other one subsequently failed because it was overloaded, so they then went into a more rapid descent, still obviously controlled, down to 10,000 feet."

The Boeing 737-400 flight carrying 99 passengers was approximately a half hour from its destination when the incident occurred.

The plane landed without incident and no one was injured. Some passengers, however, told local media the malfunction caused quite a fright inside the plane.

"There was a little bit of panic down the back of the plane and some of the passengers needed to be comforted by the hostesses," one passenger tells Fairfax radio. "One lady in particular was fairly panicked."

Qantas has had a dramatic couple of months: In November, a flight from Singapore to Sydney was forced to make an emergency landing after one of the plane's engines exploded, causing the airline to ground all A380s. Just last week, a plane bound for New York was diverted to Fiji after a 747 experienced a fuel valve problem.

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