Chinese civil aviation announced on Wednesday that a first damaged black box had been found near the Boeing 737-800 which crashed in China on Monday with 132 people on board. No survivors have been found so far and hopes are dim as the aircraft crashed almost vertically before igniting.
Progress in the investigation of the Boeing 737-800 which crashed in China with 132 people on board: a first black box, damaged, was found on Wednesday, announced civil aviation. The plane operating China Eastern Airlines domestic flight MU5735 broke up on a wooded hill in Wuzhou, southern China, on Monday as it traveled between the cities of Kunming (southwest) and Guangzhou (south ). No survivors have been found so far and hopes are dim as the aircraft crashed almost vertically before igniting.
Pilots’ voice recorder probably found
“A black box from China Eastern flight MU5735 was found on March 23,” Liu Lusong, spokesman for China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC), told reporters on Wednesday. An airliner has two flight recorders: one that allows investigators to hear conversations in the cockpit, and the other to study vital information such as speed, altitude and heading. The CAAC believes it was the voice recorder (CVR) that was found. The “damaged” black box was sent to Beijing for analysis.
Hundreds of firefighters, soldiers, doctors and volunteers, as well as specialized search dogs, remain mobilized to try to find traces of the passengers, their personal effects and the second flight recorder. Public broadcaster CCTV broadcast footage of people in “CAAC”-branded parkas placing the black box, an orange-colored metal cylinder, in a plastic bag before sealing it.
Search for survivors interrupted after heavy rains
In the pouring rain, AFP reporters saw a small group of people on Wednesday crossing a filter dam installed a few kilometers from the scene of the tragedy. A man then confirmed to the journalists present that he was a relative of a victim. 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,” said a CCTV reporter, who said he still smelled “a smell of kerosene” at the scene two days after the disaster.
His channel broadcast images of the white debris from the aircraft strewn across the hill’s ocher-brown dirt, but also of wallets, ID cards, clothing and a camera lens. The possible confirmation of the death of the 132 passengers, including nine crew members, would make it the worst 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. The reasons for the tragedy remain unknown for the time being. According to data from the specialized site Flightradar, the plane suddenly dived towards the ground before crashing. A behavior deemed unusual by specialists.
“Usually very good” pilot service records
“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 safety at the CAAC. According to Mao Yanfeng, director of the accident investigation department at the CAAC, “the weather presented no particular risk” during the flight. The captain and his two co-pilots, who had accumulated 6,709, 31,769 and 556 flight hours respectively, said Sun Shiying, a senior China Eastern official, said 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 said. 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. According to China Eastern, it had met all airworthiness requirements. However, the CAAC has ordered a general inspection of the entire aviation sector over the next two weeks.