A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 with 132 people on board crashed in the mountains in southern China on a domestic flight on Monday. This is the country’s worst air tragedy in more than a decade. However, rescue workers found no sign of survivors.
The plane was flying from the southwestern city of Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong. There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash.
The Boeing 737 plane crashed in the rural countryside near Wuzhou city, Guangxi region, and “caused a mountain fire,” CCTV said, citing the provincial emergency management bureau. The CAAC said the aircraft lost contact over the city of Wuzhou. It had 122 passengers and nine crew on board. State media said earlier that there were 132 people on board.
“We 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.
The plane crumbles after the crash.
The media cited a rescue official as saying the plane had crumbled and caused a fire that destroyed 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 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 flight left Kunming at 1:11 p.m. (0511 GMT), FlightRadar24 data showed, and had been due to land in Guangzhou at 3:05 p.m. (0705 GMT).
The plane, which Flightradar24 said was six years old, had been cruising at an altitude of 29,100 feet at 0620 GMT. Just over two minutes and 15 seconds later, data showed it had descended to 9,075 feet.
In another 20 seconds, its last tracked altitude was 3,225 feet, indicating a vertical descent of 31,000 feet per minute, Flightradar24 said.
Online weather data showed partly cloudy conditions with good visibility in Wuzhou at the time of the crash.
The Chinese president called for an investigation
State broadcaster CCTV reported that President Xi Jinping called for investigators to determine the cause of the crash as soon as possible and to ensure “absolute” aviation safety.
Shares of Boeing Co were down 6.4% at $180.44 in premarket trade. Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Shares in China Eastern Airlines in Hong Kong closed down 6.5% after news of the crash broke, while its U.S.-listed shares slumped 17% in premarket trading.
Good Record ’
Aviation data provider OAG said this month that state-owned China Eastern Airlines was the world’s sixth-largest by scheduled weekly seat capacity and the biggest in China.
China has had a relatively strong domestic aviation market during the coronavirus pandemic despite tight curbs on international flights.
The safety record of China’s airline industry has been among the best in the world over the past decade.
Shukor Yusof, head of Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, said that China Eastern and China generally have had a good air safety record over the past decade or so.
“The CAAC has very rigid safety regulations and we will just need to wait for more details to help shed light on the plausible cause of the accident.”
The 737-800 models that crashed on Monday has a good safety record and is the predecessor to the 737 MAX model that has been grounded in China for more than three years following fatal crashes in 2018 in Indonesia and 2019 in Ethiopia.
The search for black boxes continues.
Investigators will be looking to recover the plane’s two so-called black boxes—the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder—to help shed light on the crash.
The aircraft was delivered to China Eastern by Boeing in June 2015 and had been flying for more than 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 the common aircraft, including the 737-800 and the 737 Max.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, China’s last fatal jet accident was in 2010, when 44 of the 96 people on board were killed when an Embraer E-190 regional jet flown by Henan Airlines crashed on approach to Yichun airport in low visibility.
In 1994, 160 people died after the crash of a Tupolev aircraft. Since the 1990s, China has overhauled its aviation sector. Older aircraft such as the Tupolev have been phased out, while China’s biggest airline operators, such as Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern, largely use Boeing and Airbus aircraft. More rigorous safety standards as well as a relatively young fleet of aircraft have led to a much improved safety record in recent years.