A flight recorder from the Boeing 737-800 that crashed in southern China on Monday with 132 people on board has been recovered, a Chinese Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) official announced on Wednesday (March 23rd).
“A black box from China Eastern flight MU5735 was found on March 23”CAAC spokesman Liu Lusong told reporters. The plane provided the connection between the Chinese cities of Kunming (southwest) and Canton (south). The CAAC was not immediately able to specify whether the black box found was the one containing the recording of the voices in the cockpit (CVR) or the one containing the flight data (FDR).
China Eastern Airlines domestic flight MU5735 crashed into a wooded hill in the southern city of Wuzhou on Monday. Hundreds of firefighters, soldiers, doctors, volunteers and local politicians are mobilized to find traces of the passengers, their personal effects and the second black box.
A CAAC official reported late Tuesday that no survivors have been found so far. Hopes are slim, the aircraft having crashed almost vertically before igniting.
China’s worst plane crash since 1994
The search was halted on Wednesday due to heavy rainfall that waterlogged the disaster site, making it muddy and dangerous for rescuers. “Small landslides could occur”explained a reporter from public television CCTV, who said he still felt “a smell of kerosene” at the scene two days after the disaster. “There is a huge pit at the point of impact of the plane. The water has accumulated there (…) and drainage works will certainly be necessary”he insisted.
The possible confirmation of the death of the 123 passengers and nine crew members would make it the most serious plane crash since 1994 in China, where aviation safety is considered very good by experts. According to the CAAC, all the people on board were of Chinese nationality.
According to data from the specialized site Flightradar, the plane suddenly dived towards the ground before crashing. A behavior considered unusual by the experts. “When the air traffic controller noticed the plane’s sharp drop in altitude, he immediately contacted the crew, several times, but got no response”said Zhu Tao, director of aviation security at the CAAC, on Tuesday.
According to Mao Yanfeng, director of the accident investigation department at the CAAC, “the weather presented no risk” particular during the flight. The captain and his two co-pilots, who had respectively accumulated 6,709, 31,769 and 556 flight hours, said Sun Shiying, a senior China Eastern official, on Wednesday. “Based on the first elements we have, the service records of these pilots were usually very good and their family situations were harmonious”he specified.
The device was not old: in service in China since 2015, it had already performed nearly 9,000 flights in more than 18,000 hours, he said. According to China Eastern, it had met all airworthiness requirements. The CAAC has nevertheless ordered a general inspection in the air sector during the next two weeks.