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Black Boxes Recovered From Ill-fated China Eastern Flight, Begin Analysis

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: March 28, 2022
This screengrab taken on March 24, 2022 from a video by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) via AFPTV shows rescue teams with a piece of the crashed plane's fuselage as they continue their search at the site of where a China Eastern passenger jet crashed onto a mountainside near Wuzhou City in China's southern Guangxi region. The cause of the disaster which killed 132 people has mystified aviation authorities who have scoured rugged terrain for clues, finding no survivors from what is almost certain to be China's deadliest plane crash in nearly 30 years. (Photo by STR/AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images)

Rescue teams have located two black boxes from the wreckage of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 after the plane crashed into a mountainous zone of China’s southern Guangxi Province on March 21. 

Investigators have said that it may take several months to analyze the content of the boxes and figure out what exactly caused the Boeing 737-800 to nosedive into the ground at over 400 miles per hour, killing all 132 people aboard. 

Searchers found the first black box two days after the crash took place on March 21 and then the second one on March 27, six days later. State media CGTN also showed images of what it reported to be the second black box.

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The crash is China’s worst air disaster in over a decade. Flight MU5735 was en route from the southwestern city of Kunming to Guangzhou with 132 passengers and nine crew members on board, when it lost contact with ground control at 2:22PM, China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) said in a statement.

Flight tracking data from FlightRadar24 showed that the jet plunged more than 25,000 feet in less than two minutes before crashing. According to AP News, the impact zone sparked a blaze large enough to be seen on NASA satellite images.

In this video, China Eastern flight MU5735 can be seen plunging almost vertically to the ground before crashing into a dense mountainous area.

An airline representative told CNN on March 22 that the China Eastern flight was “flying normally” before it suddenly began dropping, just over an hour into the flight. Pre-flight examinations showed nothing amiss, and all crew members were healthy and qualified, he added.

Content of black boxes will take months to analyze

Following the crash, the CAAC said they have identified 120 of the victims using DNA testing, including 114 passengers and six crew members. By 4 p.m on March 24, search and rescue teams had found 21 victim body parts and 183 pieces of wreckage. However, they did not find any survivors nor a complete body, crushing the hopes of family members waiting for news about their loved ones aboard flight MU5735, The Epoch Times reported.

This photo taken on March 27, 2022 shows rescuers standing in a silent tribute for victims at the site of the China Eastern Airlines plane crash in Tengxian county, Wuzhou city, in China’s southern Guangxi region. (Photo by -/CNS/AFP via Getty Images)

The recovery of the flight data recorder, along with the cockpit voice recorder discovered on March 27 has been sent to Beijing for analysis and should provide crucial clues to what caused the fatal disaster. Air crash investigators warned however that their probe into the cause of the crash will be “very difficult” due to how severely damaged the plane is.

Zhu Tao, director of the CAAC’s Aviation Safety Office, said at a press conference on March 26 that search teams had found an emergency locator transmitter, which is usually installed close to the second black box.

Zhu said investigators will look into the plane’s maintenance history, the training and record of the pilots as well as weather data. They will also examine pieces of the wreckage for clues into the circumstances of the crash. When wreckage is spread over a very large area, it could indicate the plane was breaking up before hitting the ground, he said. 

Boeing and China

China Eastern Airlines and its subsidiaries temporarily grounded 223 Boeing 737-800 aircrafts, airline spokesperson Liu Xiaodong said on March 24. Chinese mouthpiece CCTV added that the airliner had set up nine teams to deal with “aircraft disposal, accident investigation, family assistance and other pressing matters.”

The 737-800 is one of the world’s most common jetliners, with more than 4,200 in service worldwide and 1,177 in service with Chinese airlines. Thousands of 737-800 NG planes safely traverse the globe daily, Boeing noted in a statement following the March 21 crash.

Boeing’s stock fell 3.6 percent following the crash and shares of China Eastern ended 6.5 percent lower in Hong Kong’s trading on March 22.

The company has not announced any sales to a Chinese passenger airline since November 2017. Just six months ago, Boeing projected the Chinese market would be worth $1.5 trillion in commercial aircraft purchases over the next 20 years.China is also a key market for the aviation giant. In 2017 and 2018, China accounted for more than 20 percent of Boeing’s global deliveries, but since the start of 2020, that number has dropped to below 5 percent.