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News 22 March, 2022 Back

FlightSafe Situation Update - China Eastern Airlines fatal crash flight MU5735

Becky Malcolm

China Eastern Airlines

Summary

  • China Eastern Airlines plane crashed into a rural wooded area near Wuzhou city, Guangxi region, sparking a serious fire
  • Rescuers were reportedly dispatched immediately after the crash; however, no survivors have been found
  • CCTV footage emerged on social media showing the jet diving vertically towards the ground
  • President Xi Jinping said he was 'shocked' over the incident and immediately ordered a probe into the cause
  • The aircraft, flight number MU5735 from Kunming to Guangzhou, is believed to be a Boeing 737-89P, not a 737 MAX as was initially reported

Situation

China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 departed Kunming Changshui International airport (KMG/ZPPP), China, at 13:11 local time (05:11 UTC) on 21 March 2022. The flight was bound for Guangzhou Baiyun International airport (CAN/ZGGG), China, estimated arrival time of 15:10 local time (07:10 UTC).

The Boeing 737-89P(WL), registration B-1791, climbed to a cruise level of 29,100 feet (FL290), with 123 passengers and nine crew onboard. Just over one hour into its flight, at approximately 14:19 local time (06:19 UTC), the aircraft performed an unexpected rapid descent from 29,100 feet, disappearing from radar at 14:22 local time (06:22 UTC) at an altitude of 3,225 feet.

The aircraft crashed into a wooded area in the mountainous region of Guangxi, near Langnan township in Teng county, and caught fire. More than 600 emergency responders are reported to have attended the crash site to extinguish the fire and begin a search and rescue operation, although it is unlikely that the crash would have been survivable.

Unconfirmed CCTV footage taken by local villagers has gone viral on social media showing the aircraft in a nose-dive before disappearing into a tree line. Other footage shows an intense fire, smoke, and aircraft debris.

The point at which the aircraft’s rapid descent started, coincides with the point at which the flight on the previous day began its descent towards Guangzhou airport. China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) has dispatched investigators to the crash site.

Analysis

President Xi said: 'We are shocked to learn of the China Eastern MU5735 accident and called for 'all efforts' towards the rescue and to ‘find out the cause of the accident as soon as possible'.

China Eastern is yet to comment on the crash. Although the reason for the accident is yet to be determined, industry experts are suggesting possible jammed or unresponsive control surfaces, such as the tail elevators which could induce a high-speed stall.

China’s safety record has been amongst the best in the last decade. It’s last major plane accident was 12 years ago in August 2010, when a Henan Airlines flight from Harbin crashed near Lindu airport, Yichun, during foggy weather conditions, killing 43 of the 96 occupants onboard.

The state-owned carrier is one of China's big three airlines, along with China Southern and Air China. It is the world’s sixth largest by scheduled seat capacity, and the biggest in China, according to OAG.

The aircraft was delivered to China Eastern from Boeing in June 2015 and had been flying for over six years. The twin-engine, single aisle Boeing 737 is one of the world's most popular planes for short and medium-haul flights.

China Eastern operates multiple versions of this common aircraft variant, including the 737-800 and the 737 Max. The 737 Max version was grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes. China's aviation regulator cleared that plane to return to service late last year, making the country the last major market to do so.