KUNMING, China — No survivors were found as a search continued on Tuesday for the scattered wreckage of a China Eastern plane carrying 132 people that crashed a day earlier in a forested mountainous area during the China’s worst air disaster in a decade.
“The wreckage of the plane was found at the scene, but so far none of the people on board the plane with whom contact was lost have been found,” said the television channel. public CCTV Tuesday morning, more than 18 hours after the accident.
The Boeing 737-800 crashed near the city of Wuzhou in the Guangxi region while flying from Kunming in the southwest province of Yunnan to the industrial hub of Guangzhou along the east coast. It started a fire large enough to be seen in NASA satellite images.
The crash created a deep pit in the mountainside, Xinhua news agency reported, citing rescuers. The report said drones and a manual search would be used to try to find the black boxes, which contain flight data and cockpit voice recorders critical to crash investigations.
China Eastern Flight 5735 was traveling at 455 knots (523 mph, 842 km/h) at about 29,000 feet when it entered a steep and rapid dive around 2:20 p.m. local time, according to tracking website data FlightRadar24.com flights. The plane dived to 7,400 feet before briefly regaining about 1,200 altitude sensations, then dove again. The plane stopped transmitting data 96 seconds after it began to fall.
The plane was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said. It was about an hour into the flight and approaching the point where it would begin to descend into Guangzhou, when it dived downward.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an “all-out” rescue operation, as well as an investigation into the crash and ensuring the full safety of civil aviation.
At a hotel near the Kunming airport where the plane took off, a dozen people, some wearing jackets identifying them as members of China’s aviation agency, crowded around tables and read documents. Police and security guards at an airline office near the airport ordered the journalists to leave.
State media reported that all 737-800s in China Eastern’s fleet had been ordered to ground. Aviation experts said it is unusual to ground an entire fleet of planes unless there is evidence of a problem with the model. China has more 737-800s than any other country – nearly 1,200 – and if identical planes from other Chinese airlines are grounded, it “could have a significant impact on domestic travel”, the official said. IBA aviation consultant.
Boeing 737-800s have been flying since 1998 and Boeing has sold more than 5,100. They have been involved in 22 crashes that damaged the planes beyond repair and killed 612 people, according to data compiled by the Aviation Safety Network, a branch of the Flight Safety Foundation.
“There are thousands of them around the world. It certainly has an excellent safety record,” foundation president Hassan Shahidi said of the 737-800.
The plane was not a Boeing 737 Max, the planes which were grounded around the world for nearly two years after fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.
China’s aviation safety record has improved since the 1990s as air travel has increased dramatically with the rise of a burgeoning middle class. Before Monday, the last fatal accident of a Chinese airliner occurred in August 2010, when an Embraer ERJ 190-100 operated by Henan Airlines hit the ground short of the runway in the city of Yichun, in the northeast, and caught fire. It carried 96 people and 44 of them died. Investigators blamed pilot error.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said a lead investigator has been selected to help investigate the crash. The US Federal Aviation Administration, which certified the 737-800 in the 1990s, said it was ready to help with the investigation if asked.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. said it was in contact with the US security office “and our technical experts are ready to assist with the investigation by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.” The safety board said engine manufacturer CFM, a joint venture between General Electric and France’s Safran, would provide technical assistance on engine problems.
Accident investigations are usually conducted by officials from the country where the accident occurred, but usually include the aircraft manufacturer and the investigator or regulator from the manufacturer’s home country.
Shahidi said he expects investigators to review the aircraft and engine maintenance history, pilot training and records, air traffic control discussions and other matters. .
Based in Shanghai, China Eastern is one of the country’s top three airlines, serving 248 domestic and overseas destinations.
The aircraft was delivered to the airliner by Boeing in June 2015 and had been flying for over six years. China Eastern Airlines uses the Boeing 737-800 as the mainstay of its fleet – the airline has more than 600 planes, and 109 are Boeing 737-800s.
Both the CAAC and China Eastern said they sent officials to the crash site in accordance with emergency measures.
China Eastern’s website changed to a black and white homepage after the crash.
The single-aisle, twin-engine Boeing 737 in various versions has been flying for more than 50 years and is one of the most popular aircraft in the world for short and medium-haul flights.
The later 737 Max was grounded for about 20 months after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. China in December became the last major market to allow the Max to return to service, although Chinese airlines have yet to resume flying the Max.
The deadliest accident involving a Boeing 737-800 occurred in January 2020, when Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guards accidentally shot down a Ukraine International Airlines flight, killing all 176 people on board.
Associated Press researcher Yu Bing and press assistant Caroline Chen in Beijing, researcher Si Chen in Shanghai, writer Ken Moritsugu in Beijing, writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, UAE, video producer Penny Wang and writer Adam Schreck in Bangkok and airline writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.