One Black Box Recovered from Eastern China Accident

Chinese authorities also call for a two-week safety standdown.

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]

One of the black boxes from the Boeing 737-800 that crashed in southern China on Monday has been found. 

Recovery crews are still poring over the wreckage of China Eastern Flight MU 5735, looking for clues as to what caused the jet to go down. There were 123 passengers and nine crew members aboard the aircraft. No survivors have been found. The accident is the worst in Chinese aviation in 30 years.

The Boeing 737-800 is equipped with two flight recorders: one records flight data the other is a cockpit voice recorder. According to a spokesperson from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the recovered box is heavily damaged, and it is not known if it is a flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder. 

There were no distress calls from the aircraft prior to the accident.

Authorities Order Two-Week Safety Inspection

Additionally, the CAAC has ordered a two-week safety inspection of the industry. According to a release from the CAAC, the safety inspection will scrutinize air traffic management bureaus, companies involved in civil aviation transport and general aviation, and service providers for the aviation industry. China's state-run news agency reported the purpose of the standdown is to ensure safety in all aspects of aviation.

Immediately following the accident, China Eastern announced the grounding of its remaining 737-800s as a precaution. The air carrier is the second largest in China.

How We Got Here

The aircraft was enroute from Kunming, the capital city of  Yunnan province in southwest China to Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong near Hong Kong. 

Chinese aviation officials say the aircraft was about an hour into the 90-minute flight at a cruise altitude of 29,100 feet when it went into a steep dive. According to data gleaned from FlightRadar24, the aircraft momentarily leveled off at 8,000 feet then entered a second dive from which it did not recover. 

The ADS-B readout showed the aircraft in a vertical speed of 31,000 fpm down. Security cameras in the area caught images of the jet in a near vertical attitude before it went down in a mountainous rural area. The aircraft exploded on impact, starting a forest fire.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters and 100 members of a local militia were dispatched to the site in hopes of performing a rescue mission. Chinese aviation officials have not yet declared the 132 persons aboard the aircraft dead.

Photographs of the crash site depict a large crater and heavily fragmented and charred wreckage. Recovery teams have found some personal items such as wallets, ID cards, scraps of clothing, and parts of cell phones. Investigators note it is possible that the other black box was buried by impact forces.

Because the Boeing 737-800 was manufactured in the U.S., the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board—along with Boeing and CFM, the aircraft’s engine manufacturer—are part of the investigation.

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.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter