There are no survivors after a Chinese Boeing plane crashes into the mountains, killing 132 people
BEIJING, March 21 (Reuters) – A China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS) Boeing 737-800 carrying 132 people on board a domestic flight crashed on Monday after a sudden landing in the mountains of southern China. Media said there were no signs of survivors.
The airline said it expressed its deepest condolences to the passengers and crew, without specifying how many were killed.
Chinese media showed brief highway video footage from a vehicle’s dashcam clearly showing a jet diving into the ground behind trees at an angle of about 35 degrees. Reuters could not immediately confirm the footage.
The plane was en route from the southwest city of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong bordering Hong Kong, when it crashed.
China Eastern said the cause of the crash, in which the plane descended 31,000 feet in one minute, was under investigation, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
The airline said it has provided a hotline for relatives of those on board and sent a working group to the site. Chinese state television, citing China Eastern, reported that there were no foreigners on the flight.
The media quoted a rescue official as saying that the plane broke down and bamboo trees were destroyed in the fire. The People’s Daily quoted a provincial fire department official as saying that there were no signs of anyone alive in the rubble.
State media showed a fragment of the plane on a mud-paved hill. There was no sign of fire or personal belongings.
The plane, with 123 passengers and nine crew, lost contact with the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) in the city of Wuzhou, the airline said.
The flight left Kunming at 1:11 pm. (0511 GMT), Flightradar24 data showed, and was due to land in Guangzhou at 3:05 p.m. (0705 GMT).
Flightradar24 said the plane, which was six years old, was cruising at 29,100 feet at 0620 GMT. After two minutes and 15 seconds, data showed it had dropped to 9,075 feet.
Twenty seconds later, its final tracked altitude was 3,225 feet.
Accidents are relatively rare during the cruise phase of flights, even though most of the flight time occurs in this phase. Boeing said last year only 13% of fatal commercial accidents globally between 2011 and 2020 occurred during the cruise phase, compared with 28% on final approach and 26% on landing.
Chinese aviation expert Li Xiaojin said, “Usually the aircraft is on autopilot during the cruise phase. So it is very difficult to understand what happened.”
Online weather data showed partly cloudy conditions with good visibility in Wuzhou at the time of the accident.
State broadcaster CCTV reported that President Xi Jinping called on investigators to find the cause of the accident as soon as possible.
A Boeing spokesman said: “We are aware of initial media reports and are working to gather more information.”
Shares of The Boeing Company (BA.N) were down 5% at 1455 GMT.
Shares of China Eastern Airlines in Hong Kong closed down 6.5% after news of the crash emerged, while its US-listed shares fell 17% in premarket trading.
State media reported that China Eastern halted its fleet of 737-800 aircraft after the crash. According to FlightRadar24, China Eastern has 109 aircraft in its fleet.
Aviation data provider OAG said this month that state-owned China Eastern Airlines was the world’s sixth-largest carrier by scheduled weekly seat capacity.
The 737-800 has a good safety record and is the predecessor to the 737 MAX model that has been grounded in China for more than three years after fatal accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
For a decade, China’s airline safety record has been among the best in the world.
“CAAC has very strict safety regulations and we will have to wait for more details,” said Shukor Yusof, head of Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Andau Analytics.
Investigators will search the plane’s black boxes – the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder – to shed light on the crash.
The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was ready to assist China’s investigation if asked.
China’s aviation safety record is less transparent than in countries such as the United States and Australia, where regulators issue detailed reports on non-fatal incidents, said Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor of industry publication FlightGlobal.
“There are concerns that there is some under-reporting of security lapses on the mainland,” he said.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, China’s last fatal jet crash was in 2010, when an Embraer E-190 regional jet flown by Henan Airlines crashed near Yichun Airport, killing 44 of the 96 people on board. Were.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, in 1994 a China Northwest Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 flying from Xian to Guangzhou crashed, killing all 160 people in China’s worst air crash ever.
Reporting by Jamie Freed in the Beijing and Shanghai Newsrooms and Sydney; Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Writing by Robert Birsel and Nick McPhee; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Hugh Lawson.