Flight data from black boxes of China Eastern Airlines suggests an intentional nosedive

Radhika Bansal

18 May 2022

Investigators probing the crash of a China Eastern Airlines jet are examining whether it was due to intentional action taken on the flight deck, with no evidence so far of a technical malfunction, two people briefed on the matter said.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Tuesday, May 17 that flight data from one of the Boeing 737-800’s black boxes indicated that someone in the cockpit intentionally crashed the plane, citing people familiar with US officials’ preliminary assessment.

Boeing Co, the maker of the jet, and the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declined to comment and referred questions to Chinese regulators.

China Eastern Airlines crash that killed 132 may have been intentional

The Boeing 737-800, en route from Kunming to Guangzhou, crashed on March 21 in the mountains of Guangxi, after a sudden plunge from cruising altitude, killing all 123 passengers and nine crew members aboard. It was mainland China’s deadliest aviation disaster in 28 years.

ALSO READ - China Eastern B737-800 crash – here’s what is known so far

The pilots did not respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers and nearby planes during the rapid descent, authorities have said. One source told Reuters investigators were looking at whether the crash was a “voluntary” act.

Screenshots of the Wall Street Journal story appeared to be censored both on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo and messaging app Wechat on Wednesday, May 18 morning.

Flight data from black boxes of China Eastern Airlines suggests an intentional nosedive

The hashtag topics “China Eastern” and “China Eastern black boxes” are banned on Weibo, which is cited as a breach of relevant laws, and users are unable to share the story in group chats on WeChat.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said on April 11 in response to rumours on the internet of a deliberate crash that the speculation had “gravely misled the public” and “interfered with the accident investigation work.”

ALSO READ - China denies internet speculations that blamed the co-pilot for the plane crash

China Eastern did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Wall Street Journal said the airline had said in a statement that no evidence had emerged that could determine whether or not there were any problems with the accident aircraft. The Chinese Embassy declined to comment.

China Eastern grounded its entire fleet of 737-800 planes after the crash but resumed flights in mid-April

The 737-800 is a widely flown predecessor to Boeing’s 737 MAX but does not have the systems that have been linked to fatal 737-MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that led to a lengthy grounding of the MAX.

China Eastern grounded its entire fleet of 737-800 planes after the crash but resumed flights in mid-April in a move widely seen at the time as ruling out any immediate new safety concern over Boeing’s previous and still most widely used model.

ALSO READ - China Eastern Airlines starts putting B737-800 aircraft back into operations

In a summary of an unpublished preliminary crash report last month, Chinese regulators did not point to any technical recommendations on the 737-800, which has been in service since 1997 with a strong safety record, according to experts.

The 737-800 is a widely flown predecessor to Boeing’s 737 MAX but does not have the systems that have been linked to fatal 737-MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that led to a lengthy grounding of the MAX.

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said in a May 10 Reuters interview that board investigators and Boeing had travelled to China to assist the Chinese investigation.

She noted that the investigation to date had not found any safety issues that would require any urgent actions. Homendy said if the board has any safety concerns it will “issue urgent safety recommendations.”

The NTSB assisted Chinese investigators with the review of black boxes at its US lab in Washington. Shares of Boeing closed up 6.5%.

A final report into the causes could take two years or more to compile, Chinese officials have said. Analysts say most crashes are caused by a cocktail of human and technical factors.

Deliberate crashes are exceptionally rare. Experts noted the latest hypothesis left open whether the action stemmed from one pilot acting alone or the result of a struggle or intrusion but sources stressed nothing has been confirmed.

In March 2015, a Germanwings co-pilot deliberately flew an Airbus A320 into a French mountainside, killing all 150 onboard.

French investigators found the 27-year-old was suffering from a suspected “psychotic depressive episode,” concealed from his employer. They later called for better mental health guidelines and stronger peer support groups for pilots.

(With Inputs from Reuters)

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Shanghai's TCab E20 eVTOL prototype performs transition flights with 50% - scale demonstrator


18 May 2022

TCab Tech, one of China's leading eVTOL contenders, was founded in May 2021 by Yon Wui NG- who was previously Vice General Manager of Geely Terrafugia responsible for the eVTOL aircraft named TF-2A. Before Geely Terrafugia, Yon spent 10 years with Airbus China Engineering Center whereby one of his positions as Head of Engineering for the engineering centre. 

TCab Tech

According to the company, it has performed many test flights as a part of its validation process for its 50% scale prototype E20 air taxi design in vertical lift and hovers mode, as well as transitions to winged cruise flight.

Yon Wui NG | Founder and CEO of TCab Tech | TCab Tech

TCab E20 demonstrator - tech and specs

TCab E20 eVTOL aircraft | TCab Tech

Touted to be a hybrid between tilt-prop vectored thrust designs like the Joby S4 and lift and cruise designs like Autoflight's Prosperit, the E20 is a piloted aircraft designed to carry five passengers.

It is a tilt-rotor, high gull-wing, conventional tailplane, and fixed landing gear design. Out of the six rotors, two on the outboard wing and two on the horizontal tailplane can be tilted, the rest of the two rotors on the inboard wing are actually lift rotors with stowable blades in cruise.

TCab Tech

The high gull-wing prevents rotor-hit while passenger ingress/egress of the cabin. The conventional tailplane and fixed landing gear simplify the aircraft design.

Although the overall architecture seems to be less complex, it does compromise top speed and range when compared to designs like, for instance- the Joby S4. According to TCab, the E20 can clock speeds as high as 260 km/h (162 mph). The Joby S4 has hit speeds over 330 km/h (205 mph) in the air.

Joby S4 | TransportUP

E20's range is reportedly 200 km (124 miles) whereas Joby S4 can hit a maximum of 241 km (150 miles).

Seats5Maximum payload450kgMaximum Range200kmCruising Speed260km/hrPropulsionPure electricE20 | tcabtech.com

Apparently, the E20 demonstrator serves as a flight-testing platform for the engineering team to acquire valuable flight test data for early validation of the E20 configuration and design. The company has flown several sub-scale prototypes before-a the 25%-scale demonstrator of the vehicle in August, which had completed hundreds of transition tests by the following month.

Featuring a 19.7-ft (6-meter) wingspan, the demonstrator uses six rotors in VTOL and transits to four rotors in cruise mode. The two lift rotors are switched-off and locked during cruising flights.

TCab Tech

According to the company, dozens of flight tests taking this 50% scale prototype through the tricky process of transitioning to winged cruise flight and back, have been performed.


After months of rigorous tests, the team has established a complete test flight, including route planning, logistical maintenance, inspection and release, and safety assurance.

Additionally, the E20 eVTOL 50% subscale demonstrator will also be used to develop in-house structural and durability test facilities, electric motor test rigs, and SIL and HIL flight simulation labs.

The E20 50% subscale demonstrator completed its maiden flight in December 2021.


COVER: New Atlas

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Emirates not so happy with its delayed B787-9 order, says don't expect the delivery till 2024

Radhika Bansal

17 May 2022

Emirates no longer expects to take any B787-9s in 2023 as manufacturing issues continue to plague their production line, Chief Operating Officer Adel Al Redha told reporters during the Arabian Travel Market.

"The 787 was supposed to be delivered in 2023. Now we know for sure that's not going to happen in 2023. It may not happen even in 2024 because Boeing still hasn’t recommenced that production," Al Redha said.

The Emirati carrier has thirty B787-9s on order from the manufacturer. It added the type to its backlog in 2019 through the partial conversion of its B777X order. It hoped this would have allowed it to add the aircraft more rapidly, in light of the B777X's slow-moving certification.

Emirates is not so happy with its delayed B787-9 order, and says don't expect the delivery till 2024

ALSO READ - Emirates threatens to cancel the Boeing 777X orders if delivery postponed beyond 2023

While it still seems likely - considering that the B777X is now not expected to enter into service before late 2025 - manufacturing issues have continued to complicate the B787 induction, too.

Boeing has not delivered any B787s since May 2021 due to problems with product quality concerns. It is currently trying to recertify the type with the US Federal Aviation Administration, but Reuters reported that recent documentation, submitted in late April, was deemed "incomplete" by the regulator.

Neither Boeing nor the FAA ever commented on a resulting timeline for recertification, although sources recently disclosed that it could happen in the second half of 2022. It is unclear if this most recent recertification snag will result in any further delays.

Boeing has not delivered any B787s since May 2021 due to problems with product quality concerns.

The Air Current reported that Boeing submitted the documents "in the immediate moments" before its April 27 investor earnings call.

Emirates has sixteen B777-8s and ninety-nine B777-9s on firm orders from Boeing. President Tim Clark previously cautioned that delays beyond 2024 could force the airline to reconsider its order book.

It was not clear if Emirates' contracts had this clause, but Al Redha said the airline wanted the 777X jets which although smaller are the closest in size to the Airbus A380 superjumbo. Boeing delayed deliveries of the 777X by four years to 2025.

Emirates operates the largest fleet of A380s but will over time replace the jet with 126 ordered 777X aircraft after Airbus cancelled the A380 programme more than three years ago.

Emirates has sixteen B777-8s and ninety-nine B777-9s on firm orders from Boeing

The airline has said it would refurbish and operate for longer 120 A380 and 777-330ER aircraft in its current fleet due to delays in deliveries of new aircraft.

However, Emirates also faces issues with Airbus where it has fifty A350-900s on order and which were initially scheduled to deliver in 2023 but are now expected in late 2024.

The airline was watching the unfolding legal drama between Airbus and Qatar Airways over the A350's accelerated fuselage paint degradation and said that it would not accept deliveries until the issue is addressed.

Overall, the delays have prompted Emirates to increase the number of older aircraft due to cabin refurbishments.

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Uttar Pradesh to have a drone excellence centre

Radhika Bansal

17 May 2022

Omnipresent Robot Technologies has inked a pact with Gautam Buddha University and the Skill Council of India to set up a drone excellence centre in Uttar Pradesh.

The centre will have segments for drone pilot and operations training, drone data processing and analysis and app development, drone design and manufacturing, and drone testing and repair, according to a release issued on Monday, May 16.

Recently, Omnipresent was selected as a beneficiary under the government's PLI (Production-Linked Incentive) scheme for drones and drone components.

Uttar Pradesh to have a drone excellence centre

"We intend to hire the first 100 students coming out of the programme for our own internal needs. Our target is to produce over 100s of trained drone pilots along with 100s of indigenously manufactured drones every month," Omnipresent CTO Jyoti Vashishta Sinha said.

Gautam Buddha University is located in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh. Skill councils have been set up by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

“We aim to make India a global drone hub by 2030,” the resolution of Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia echoed in the ears of all Indians as he unveiled the new Drone Rules 2021.

As the global drone industry takes wing, India’s drone delivery industry is not far behind.

Since then, India’s drone industry stakeholders have witnessed a reversal of fortune. Drone deliveries have penetrated multiple industries, from healthcare to agriculture to e-commerce, leapfrogging infrastructural gaps in the supply chain and last-mile deliveries.

As the global drone industry takes wing, India’s drone delivery industry is not far behind. Currently accounting for a minuscule share in the global drone industry (4.25%), India’s drone market is estimated to reach 30,000 crores in the next three years.

Underpinned by government impetus and unchained from rigid rules and stringent laws, the drone delivery industry in India is set to lead the next era of aviation.

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AAI to commission a new terminal building at the Jabalpur airport by March 2023

Radhika Bansal

17 May 2022

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) will commission a new terminal building at the Jabalpur airport in Madhya Pradesh by March 2023, according to an official statement on Saturday, May 14.

The new terminal building will be equipped with world-class passenger facilities and have the capacity to handle 500 passengers during peak hours, the AAI’s statement said. 

Spread over an area of 1,15,315 square feet, the terminal building will have three aerobridges, an advanced baggage screening system, a modern food court in the landscape area and well-planned parking for over 300 cars and buses. 


“The proposed terminal building will welcome the passengers with glimpses of vibrant Gond paintings, local handicrafts, murals and popular tourist destinations of Madhya Pradesh,” it stated.

The proposed terminal building will have glimpses of vibrant tribal Gond paintings, local handicrafts, murals, and popular tourist destinations of Madhya Pradesh. It said the Madhya Pradesh government had handed over 483 acres of land to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) for the development of the airport in 2015, which has taken the total land under the airport to 774 acres.

According to the statement, not just the terminal building, but the entire airport is also getting upgraded.

The runway is being extended to make it suitable to handle A320-type aircraft, a new 38-metre-high air traffic control tower is being built, and a new fire station and ancillary buildings are being built under this project at the Jabalpur airport, it said.

AAI to commission a new terminal building at the Jabalpur airport by March 2023

The entire project will cost INR 412 crore. “The tentative date for completion of the project is December 2022 and the new terminal building is likely to be commissioned by March 2023,” the statement said.

The Centre-run AAI owns and runs more than 100 airports across the country. Jabalpur Airport (colloquially referred to as Dumna Airport) is an airport 25 km east of the city of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.

It is the third busiest airport in Madhya Pradesh after Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar International Airport in Indore and Raja Bhoj International Airport in Bhopal in terms of both passenger and aircraft movement.

The Airports Authority of India is upgrading the airport to provide better services to the air travellers of the region. The upgrades are expected to be completed by December 2022.

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"Smart Lander" developed by ATR and Safran to revolutionize the way hard landings are analysed. Here's what we know


16 May 2022

Safran Landing Systems, the world leader in aircraft landing and braking systems, Safran Engineering Services, a provider of high technology engineering services and ATR - the world’s leading regional aircraft manufacturer, have collaborated to develop, what is dubbed as "Smart Lander" - the first of its kind in the aviation industry.


Smart Lander, an innovative landing gear diagnostics service developed by the aerospace behemoths, is apparently based on machine learning technology, touted to optimise the manufacturer's response times in the event of hard landings, and enable aircraft to be quickly returned to service.

What causes a hard landing?

Boeing defines a “hard landing” to be any landing that may have resulted in an exceeding limit load on the airframe or landing gear, with a sink rate of 10 feet per second with zero rolls at touchdown. It can be caused by weather conditions, mechanical problems, overweight aircraft, pilot decisions and/or pilot errors.

The aftermath of a hard landing can be hard on the passengers and cargo and the aircraft itself. Bumpy landings or bouncing on the tarmac with high forces can potentially impart huge structural stress on landing gear components.

Although pilot error can cause “hard landings", they are executed on purpose because of wet weather conditions, wind gusts, or short or busy runways-pilots often prefer to term such landings-"firm".

Following a hard landing, an aircraft is subjected to a close visual inspection of various structural components to determine if further inspections are warranted. Based on initial inspection, further examinations may be performed- should a leakage of hydraulic fluid from the shock strut is found which may call for a removal of parts of the landing gear. 

Representative | Source

How will Smart Lander streamline the process?

Based on hundreds of thousands of hard landing simulations, Smart Lander will issue recommendations to operators on the maintenance actions to be taken according to the hardness of the landing and to the load level sustained by the landing gear. Based on these, the aircraft can therefore be permitted to continue their commercial operations or alternatively, be sent to a maintenance base. A process which would take over a week previously can now be done in less than an hour.

Our former process could take up to 10 to 20 working days. It required analyses from both the ATR Design Office and Safran Landing Systems to decide whether the aircraft was fit to return to service. With Smart Lander, we will be able to massively reduce ATR response times, therefore boosting aircraft availability, reducing costs for customers and enhancing customer satisfaction, while maintaining the same level of analysis quality.David Brigante, ATR Customer Support and Services Senior Vice-President, stated

David Brigante | Aviation Maintenance Magazine

Significantly slashing the response times required for returning the aircraft to service after a hard landing, Smart Lander will also undeniable advantages to both ATR and its customers in terms of man-hours, aircraft availability and customer satisfaction.


COVER: Cargospotter