A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 domestic flight MU5735 with 132 people on board crashed in mountains in southern China on Monday, March 21 and media reported that rescue workers had found no sign of survivors.
The aircraft, with 123 passengers and nine crew on board, lost contact over the city of Wuzhou, China’s Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the airline said.
The China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft, which departed from Kunming, capital of Yunnan province and was bound for Guangzhou, bordering Hong Kong crashed into a mountainous area near the Molang village in Tengxian County at 2:38 PM, causing a massive mountain fire.
The Guangxi regional health commission has dispatched 12 medical experts to the site, and over 80 medical workers and 36 ambulances sent by health authorities in the city of Wuzhou have arrived at the scene.
The nosedive by the China Eastern Airlines Corp. jet from about 29,000 feet (8,840 meters) is baffling air-crash specialists. Boeing has offered to help China’s investigation. China Eastern grounded its fleet of 737-800s, and thousands of domestic flights were cancelled on Tuesday, March 22 across China. Chinese officials are due to hold a briefing on the crash this evening.
Boeing on Tuesday, March 22 said the company was in contact with the US National Transportation Safety Board and its technical experts were prepared to assist with the investigation led by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
“Our thoughts are with the passengers and crew of China Eastern Airlines Flight MU 5735. We are working with our airline customers and are ready to support them,” the aircraft-maker said.
“Can confirm the plane has crashed,” China Eastern Airlines said in a statement in which it also gave details of a hotline for relatives of those on board.
Flight tracker FlightRadar24 showed no more data for flight MU5735 after 2:22 pm local time, when it had reached Wuzhou. It showed that the plane had sharply dropped from an altitude of 29,100 feet to 3,225 feet in the span of three minutes, before flight information stopped.
The media cited a rescue official as saying the plane had disintegrated and caused a fire destroying bamboo trees. The People’s Daily quoted a provincial firefighting department official as saying there was no sign of life among the scattered debris.
The Boeing 737-800 is part of the 737 families, the world’s most-flown commercial aircraft series. It was developed in the 1960s to serve short- or medium-length routes. The 737-800 is part of the 737 NG or Next-Generation family – with more than 7,000 delivered since 1993 – and it has a strong safety record after nearly three decades of flights.
The 162- to 189-seat 737-800 was launched on September 5, 1994. The NG is the predecessor to the 737 MAX. The jet involved in the China Eastern accident was six years old, according to Flightradar24.
The last fatal 737-800 crash occurred in August 2020 when an Air India Express plane overshot the table-top runway and crashed while landing at Calicut International Airport of Kerala in heavy rain, killing 21. A government report cited pilot error as the probable cause.
China has the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 737-800s, meaning any further groundings of the jet could have a significant impact on domestic travel, according to aviation consultancy IBA Group Ltd.
China’s fleet of nearly 1,200 aircraft is also the world’s youngest, with an average age of about eight years, five below the global average, IBA said. The China Eastern 737-800 that crashed was delivered to the carrier in June 2015.
The engines on the China Eastern jet were manufactured by CFM, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet. CFM, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Safran SA, will be the technical advisor for any issues related to the engines, the NTSB said.
Rescuers in southern China continued to search a remote mountainside for the black boxes of the China Eastern Airlines plane that plunged from the sky on Monday with 132 people on board, as authorities warned the severe damage to the aircraft would make it difficult to establish the cause of the crash.