Thursday, May 19, 2022

China plane crash: What caused the Boeing 737 to suddenly nosedive from 29,000 feet!?

A China Eastern Boeing 737-800 that had 132 people on board went into a near-vertical dive, it crashed in a remote mountainous area of southern China on Monday. After China’s worst stock crash, this air disaster is the biggest one that happened in over a decade. Here is all of what is currently known to us:

What actually transpired?

China plane crash: What caused the Boeing 737 to suddenly nosedive from 29,000 feet!?
China plane crash: What caused the Boeing 737 to suddenly nosedive from 29,000 feet!?

The China Eastern Airlines Corp. jet was flying a normal route to Guangzhou when the plane suddenly nosed over at cruise altitude, then dove. Flight MU5735 from Kunming was cruising at about 29,000 feet (8,839 meters) it was around 100 miles from the flight destination in Guangzhou, Southern China when the plane suddenly went into a steep descent.

For the next 1 minute and 35 seconds, the plane lost altitude in a near-vertical dive till it slammed into a hillside. All of the 132 passengers on board are believed to be have been killed, though the deaths have not been formally verified. It is China’s worst commercial aviation accident in more than a decade.

While there have been a handful of crashes in which an airliner plunged from cruising altitude, hardly any, fit the extreme profile of this Boeing Co. 737-800. As it pointed steeply toward the ground, as per the veteran crash investigators as well as the previous accident reports.

“It’s an odd profile,” said John Cox, an aviation safety consultant as well as a former 737 pilot. “It is hard to get the airplane to do this.”

Gradually dropping by a few thousand feet per minute produces a barely detectable sensation for passengers. Instead, it began falling at more than 30,000 feet per minute within seconds, as per the tracking data logged by Flightradar24.

What are the possible scenarios for the plane crash?

At this juncture, it’s too early to predict and reach conclusions on what caused the crash. The possibilities range from an equipment malfunction to a weather-related event, to pilot illness or suicide. There could also be a possibility of a terrorist attack of some description. No scenario has been ruled out.

What are investigators looking for?

While investigators search for the plane’s two crash-proof recorders, while they also begin poring over clues, they will be trying to determine why the jet made such an abrupt moreover a severe dive, which sets it apart from the earlier accidents. The investigators will be looking at the weather the plane encountered if the pilots made any distress calls, as well as any hints in the wreckage of possible malfunctions along with detailed profiles of the crew.

The primary focus will be on scouring the wreckage to find the plane’s black boxes. This is the flight data as well as the cockpit recorders, which should be providing the biggest clues as to the reason behind the nosedive. A particular detail of note is that the aircraft’s dive appeared to have halted for about 10 seconds, then it climbed briefly at about 8,000 feet before it resumed the descent, as per the data from Flightradar24.

Jeff Guzzetti, the former accident investigation chief for U.S. Federal Aviation Administration commented saying that “It’s very odd,”.

What else is known?

A surveillance video appearing to capture the plane in its final moments, the video showed the plane in a steep dive towards the ground. Chinese media outlet The Paper said it had verified that the video was shot by a mining company near the plane’s impact, however, its authenticity could not be independently verified. Separately, a video posted on social media apparently shows the crash site as a wooded area on fire.

There are precedents in which airliners suddenly began dropping from cruise altitude, however, most of them have important differences, according to the investigators.

For example, Air France Flight 447, went down in the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. It fell at a much slower and more erratically after speed sensors iced up which led to the pilots becoming confused, as per France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety. All 228 people on board the Airbus SE A330 are dead.

An Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. cargo jet dove suddenly into a marsh near Houston on Feb. 23, 2019, it went down from a much lower altitude. In this case, the copilot became disoriented and pointed the nose towards the ground, as found by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. Its descent occurred over a much shorter period of time, even this jet wasn’t falling as fast as the China Eastern plane.

A similar crash occurred on Dec. 19, 1997, when a pilot on a Silk Air 737-300 dove into a river in Indonesia. In turn, killing all the 104 people on board. The plane was falling at more than 38,000 feet per minute, as per the nation’s National Transportation Safety Committee.

What did China Eastern and Boeing say?

The airline announced that it would ground all its Boeing 737-800 jets from Tuesday. They also expressed condolences to passengers as well as the crew on board. Boeing in a message to all employees said it was “deeply saddened” by the crash. Boeing said it has been in “close communication with customers as well as the regulatory authorities since the crash.”

Who’s investigating the crash?

China’s Vice Premier Liu He has been tasked with overseeing this investigation, the investigation will be carried out by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Authorities will work alongside a senior investigator from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board along with representatives from Boeing as well as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

A pilot most likely crashed that plane deliberately, as per NTSB’s conclusion. The plane’s cockpit as well as the flight-data recorder systems were mysteriously shut off shortly. Thus, detailed information about the trajectory of the dive wasn’t available.

It is far too early to conclude what led to the crash, said Benjamin Berman, a former NTSB investigator, he also flew 737s.

It is possible to come up with a lot of scenarios for some type of malfunction, pilot miscues. Or, even some combination that led to the plunge, said Berman.

However, none of these seem very likely. He echoed what Cox and Guzzetti already said: The 737-800, like other jetliners, is designed so that it will not normally dive at steep angles.

It means that it would likely take an extreme effort by a pilot. Or, a highly unusual malfunction, Berman said. 

“You have to have something to hold the nose down,” Berman said.

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