China Eastern crash: the deadliest plane accident in mainland China since 1994

On 21 March, China Eastern Airlines MU5735 plummeted from about 8,869 metres high into a valley in Guangxi, Southern China with all 123 passengers and 9 crew members identified and confirmed dead. The investigation into the cause of the deadliest air accident since 1994 is still ongoing. 

The crashed Boeing 737-800 had been in service for less than seven years. The weather was good; the aircraft’s technical condition was stable and met the requirements to fly, said Sun Shiying, chairman of China Eastern Airlines Yunnan branch.

Liu Xiaodong, head of the airline’s publicity department, said that communication with the flight was normal prior to the crash, and no emergency signal was sent. He added that during the pandemic, China Eastern Airlines increased maintenance costs – the number in 2021 increased by 12% compared with 2019. After the accident, China Eastern grounded all its Boeing 737-800 aircrafts and launched a safety investigation.

So far, no explosives have been detected at the crash site. Two black boxes have been found and sent to Beijing for decoding. One of the black boxes is the cockpit voice recorder, found on 23 March, which recorded two to three hours of important audio information, including the conversation on the pilot and co-pilot channels. This data is currently being extracted. 

The second black box – a flight data recorder found on 27 March, could reveal vital details on how the plane suddenly nose-dived from a cruising altitude and crashed into a hillside. A Civil Aviation Administration of China said the storage unit appeared to have survived fairly well while other parts suffered severe damage.


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