Investigations into the China Eastern plane crash that occurred last Monday, March 21, are still being held. But everything seemed to be in order prior to the near-vertical dive of the aircraft.
Flight MU5735 was supposed to be a two-hour trip just within China. It departed from Kunming City in the province of Yunnan and should have arrived at the third largest city in the country, Guangzhou. There were 123 passengers and 9 crew members on board the Boeing 737-800 plane.
However, it was unable to arrive at its original destination because the plane crashed halfway through the trip outside Wuzhou city. According to FlightRadar24.com, the plane entered a steep and fast dive from an initial location of 29,000 feet off the ground, where it was cruising at a speed of 523 mph.
What happened from then on was another drop to 7,400 feet, followed by a 1,200-foot ascent before ultimately crashing into the mountain. It also stopped transmitting data within 96 seconds of this occurrence.
The impact of the collision was great enough to cause the disintegration of the Boeing 737-800 plane. A large-scale fire ignited soon after, which was captured by NASA satellites. Firefighters rushed to the scene of the China Eastern plane crash to respond to the needs of the situation.
As of the latest, there are no reported survivors. All of the 132 passengers were presumed to have died in the China Eastern plane crash.
Search Crews and Family Members Arrive at the Scene of the China Eastern Plane Crash
Search crews have found no sign that any of the passengers survived. They were only met with personal belongings and human remains scattered throughout the site of the China Eastern Plane Crash.
Family members similarly arrived last Wednesday, in the hopes of seeing their loved ones alive.
Relatives of one of the passengers went on a 5-hour trip from Shenzhen province in an effort to do what they could. The uncle said that “I plan to stay until the matter is sorted and I can take his ashes back. But this depends on the work of authorities. I hope the country can thoroughly investigate this matter and find out whether it is the manufacturer’s fault or a maintenance problem.”
A black box, specifically the cockpit recorder, from the Boeing 737-800 plane was also found. The exterior had already been damaged, but the recordings were spared. Searchers are still on the lookout for the second black box, which is the flight data recorder. Nevertheless, it is expected that information from the black box they have now can help unravel the mystery of the China Eastern plane crash.
This unfortunate incident comes as a shock to everyone, not just in the country, but to the rest of the world. It was China’s first plane crash that led to devastating fatalities in over a decade.
Xi Jinping, the president of China, has promptly directed a full-scale investigation into the China Eastern plane crash. Vice Premier Liu He and many more personnel were tasked with going on the ground in Guangxi province, where the tragic event happened.
In support, Boeing will provide the necessary technical expertise in the conduct of the investigation. The company has also shared their condolences to the victims of the plane crash.
“The thoughts of all of us at Boeing are with the passengers and crew members … as well as their families and loved ones,” said Dave Calhoun. He is the CEO of the aerospace company.
What Could Have Caused the China Eastern Plane Crash?
Based on what is currently known, there seems to be no indication that technical problems or environmental conditions could have caused the China Eastern plane crash.
Flight MU5735 did not experience any hazards on its way to its supposed destination. At the same time, the Boeing 737-800 plane underwent all pre-flight checks. The staff assigned to do such inspections found no issues with the plane, which has been in use for less than seven years. The aircraft was supposed to be in prime condition and had no history of accidents to this extent.
China Eastern reported that there were three pilots in charge of flight MU5735. There were no concerns found in terms of their work performance or personal lives. The captain had as many as 6,709 hours of flying experience, while the first officer had 31,769 hours and the second officer, 556 hours.
A representative from the airline said that “from what we know, the performance of the three pilots had been good and their family life relatively harmonious.”
Communication between the pilots and air traffic controllers had also been regular prior to its rapid descent. In a very short span of 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the Boeing 737-800 plane plunged thousands of meters from where it was initially cruising.
Theories Behind the China Eastern Plane Crash
Data showed that the plane was diving at 31,000 feet per minute, or 157 meters per second. Dr. Sonya Brown, an expert in the industry from the University of New South Wales, said that “this is extremely excessive and not something we would normally see in any sort of flight. The aircraft would have been almost vertical.”
“It’s very unconventional for a plane to be cruising and then suddenly dive like this,” she adds.
Although the exact reason why the fatal airplane crash happened is difficult to pinpoint, there are two theories that could possibly explain it.
First, it could have been a failure of the horizontal tail of the airplane. This structure is important because it keeps the plane stable and within the direction of its movement. Mechanical malfunctions, such as a runaway stabilizer, could result in the inability of the tail to perform its purpose. Because of this, the aircraft can tip over, just as what happened with the Boeing 737-800.
Second, it could have been intentionally performed by the pilot or pilots themselves. Dr. Brown cited the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash that occurred because of the deliberate actions of the pilot.
However, the speed at which flight MU5735 descended seems to have been too fast for this reason to be accepted. In such cases, airplanes often fall at 3,000 to 4,000 feet per minute. Thus, the extremity of what happened may not be directly comparable.
Even if all the engines in the airplane failed to function, the vehicle would glide but not tip over. “So in terms of mechanical failure, it’s really got to be around pitch control which is around the horizontal tail… so something has to have forced the aircraft down.”
Decoding the blackbox would provide vital pieces of information. Dr. Brown said that “if this aircraft was brought down deliberately, that will actually be really helpful because it’s going to record every sound in the cockpit – what they were saying, if anyone broke into the cockpit, if any alarms were going off”
More information is expected to come so that investigators can arrive at a conclusion as to what exactly happened in the China Eastern plane crash.
A safety audit of all planes will be conducted for two weeks by the aviation officials of China.
In the meantime, the 223 aircraft that belong to the fleet of Boeing 737-800 will also not be allowed to take off. This was done not because of technical mishaps, but as a precautionary measure.