Tuesday, Dec. 05, 2023|
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KUNMING, China — No survivors have been found as the search continued Tuesday of the scattered wreckage of a China Eastern plane carrying 132 people that crashed a day earlier in a forested mountainous area in China’s worst air disaster in a decade.
“Wreckage of the plane was found at the scene, but up until now, none of those aboard the plane with whom contact was lost have been found,” state broadcaster CCTV said Tuesday morning, more than 18 hours after the crash.
The Boeing 737-800 crashed near the city of Wuzhou in the Guangxi region while flying from Kunming in the southwestern province of Yunnan to the industrial center of Guangzhou along the east coast. It ignited a fire big enough to be seen on 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 hold the flight data and cockpit voice recorders essential to crash investigations.
China Eastern Flight 5735 was traveling 455 knots (523 mph, 842 kph) at around 29,000 feet when it entered a steep and fast dive around 2:20 p.m. local time, according to data from flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.com. The plane plunged to 7,400 feet before briefly regaining about 1,200 feel in altitude, then dove again. The plane stopped transmitting data 96 seconds after starting 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 nearing the point at which it would begin descending into Guangzhou, when it pitched downward.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an “all-out” rescue operation, as well as for an investigation into the crash and to ensure complete civil aviation safety.
At a hotel near the Kunming airport where the plane took off, about a dozen people, some in jackets identifying them as members of China’s aviation agency, huddled around tables and read documents. Police and security guards at an airline office near the airport ordered journalists to leave.
State media reported all 737-800s in China Eastern’s fleet were ordered grounded. 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 at other Chinese airlines are grounded, it “could have a significant impact on domestic travel,” said aviation consultant IBA.
Boeing 737-800s have been flying since 1998, and Boeing has sold more than 5,100 of them. They have been involved in 22 accidents that damaged the planes beyond repair and killed 612 people, according to data compiled by the Aviation Safety Network.
“There are thousands of them around the world. It’s certainly had an excellent safety record,” the foundation’s president, Hassan Shahidi, said of the 737-800.
The plane was not a Boeing 737 Max, the planes that were grounded worldwide for nearly two years after deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019.
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