NTSB Team Travels to China to Aid Investigation

A team of U.S. investigators has made the trip to China to help determine what caused last month’s fatal crash of a Boeing 737-800.

The aircraft involved in the accident is equipped with two flight recorders: one records flight data the other is a cockpit voice recorder. [File Photo: Shutterstock]

A team of U.S. investigators has made the trip to China to help determine what caused last month's fatal crash of a Boeing 737-800. The seven-member team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is assisting the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and is part of the investigation because the crash involves an aircraft designed and built in the U.S. 

Federal officials have also announced that a cockpit voice recorder recovered from the crash site has been shipped to a lab in Washington state for study. If it was working correctly, it would have picked up conversations of the crew, perhaps shedding some light on the final moments of the flight.

What We Know

On March 21, China Eastern Flight MU5735 was en route from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, to Guangzhou in southeastern China when, for unknown reasons, the aircraft suddenly began a rapid descent from 29,100 feet. Air traffic control made several attempts to reach the crew of the airline but did not get a reply. The crash killed all 132 persons on board.

A security camera in the area caught the Boeing jet's near-vertical plunge into the ground. 

Investigators have determined that the aircraft was traveling at nearly the speed of sound when it hit, resulting in heavily fragmented wreckage and a large crater

According to China officials, more than 49,000 pieces of wreckage have been recovered from the site. Human remains and belongings of the persons on board have also been recovered.

A preliminary report on the crash has not yet been released.

In addition to the NTSB, Boeing and CFM—the manufacturer of the engine—are assisting in the investigation.

The NTSB said its team is limiting contact with outside persons to maintain COVID protocols.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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