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Investigators question if China Eastern crash was intentional

written by Hannah Dowling | May 18, 2022

CCTV footage allegedly shows China Eastern flight 5735 diving vertically towards the ground.

Investigators are again questioning if a China Eastern 737-800 that crashed earlier this year was intentionally downed by someone in the cockpit, after reading flight data from the plane’s black box.

According to anonymous US officials close to the investigation, so far, there has been no evidence of technical malfunction, leading safety experts to again question if the plane, which was seen by witnesses to nosedive to the ground, was intentionally crashed.

On Monday, 21 March, the 737-800NG, registration B-1791, was performing flight MU5735 from Kunming in Yunnan province to Guangzhou in Guangdong province with 123 passengers and nine crew onboard, when its altitude started to quickly drop.

Data from Flightradar24 suggests the six-year-old aircraft lost over 20,000 feet in altitude within under two minutes, falling from 29,000 feet to under 9,000. The aircraft began to climb again briefly once it hit 7,400 feet, however, within seconds again continued to descend.

The twin-engine jet impacted the ground about 119 nautical miles west of its destination, in the mountainous region of Wuzhou, about one hour and 37 minutes after take-off. It marks one of the deadliest aircraft crashes in China.

“The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit,” one source told Dow Jones, stating that the investigation has so far failed to find any mechanical or flight-control issues with the aircraft, based on information from the plane’s flight data recorder.

The sources said the investigation will now analyse the actions of the pilots onboard, however, did note that someone other than the pilots could have broken into the cockpit in order to crash the plane.

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In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, China Eastern stated that no evidence has emerged that could determine whether or not there were issues with the aircraft or its systems and reiterated earlier comments that the health and economic conditions of the pilots involved appeared to be good.

“Any unofficial speculation may interfere with the accident investigation and affect the real progress of the global air transport industry,” the airline added.

Officially, the Chinese safety regulator, CAAC, said probes into the contents of the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, together considered the aircraft’s “black box”, are continuing. The agency offered no insight into when a final investigation into the incident could be released.

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Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration are also involved in the crash investigation.

CAAC opted to ground all Boeing 737-800 aircraft in China after the crash as a precautionary measure, however, has since lifted this ban due to insufficient evidence of a systemic issue with the plane.

Notably, the 737-800 does not share the systems that have been linked to the two fatal crashes of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft in 2018 and 2019.

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