China Eastern Airlines’ Boeing 737 with 132 onboard crashed and caused a mountain fire in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
The number of casualties is not clear yet, the official website of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on Monday afternoon.
This is the first air crash in China since a fatal incident in Yichun, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province back in 2010. The Yichun crash killed 44 people.
The plane, MU 5735 took off from Kunming Changshui airport in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province at 13:15, and was scheduled to arrive at Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province at 15:07.
The plane has 132 onboard, including 123 passengers, and nine crew members.
CAAC and China Eastern have dispatched working groups to the site.
Around 3pm Monday, the Wuzhou Fire Brigade deployed a rescue team to the scene of the accident, an official from the Brigade told the Global Times on Monday.
“We sent 25 fire engines and 117 firefighters to the scene, but as the accident site is too remote and in the mountains, fire engines could not reach the wreckage, firefighters entered on foot,” said an official of the Brigade via phone.
The first deployment of firefighters has already arrived on the scene, with backup available if needed, the Brigade said.
Flight data from information provider VariFlight showed that after flight MU5735 took off from Kunming airport, it had been cruising at an altitude of about 8869 meters.
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At 2:19 p.m, the aircraft suddenly descended from cruising altitude, while flight speed also began to decrease from about 845 kilometers per hour.
At 2:21, flight MU5735 lost its ADS-B radar signal also losing contact with the ground.
Judging from aircraft data, there is no information on the pilot’s ground information contact. It is very likely that the aircraft lost power at cruising altitude resulting in the pilot losing control of the aircraft. This is a very serious technical failure in which the plane inevitably enters a high-speed descent, Wang Yanan, chief editor of Beijing-based Aerospace Knowledge told the Global Times on Monday.
However, the specific reason can only be determined once the black box has been recovered, he added.
In terms of aircraft casualties, the situation appears grim, and the possibility of all onboard perishing cannot be ruled out. Moreover, search and rescue is difficult due to terrain around the crash site, while the impact of wildfires will present a high risk to anyone who managed to survive the crash, he said.
Meanwhile, an unidentified number of flights departing from Kunming, Yunnan Province, operated by China Eastern Airlines Monday afternoon were cancelled, including flights to Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province, and Xiamen, East China’s Fujian Province.
The aircraft involved is a Boeing 737, belonging to the Yunnan subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines and has been in operation of just over six and a half years. The plane was delivered in June of 2015.
The aircraft has a total of 162 seats, including 12 business class seats and 150 economy class seats.
As of February 19, 2022, the continuous safe flight time of China’s civil aviation transport aviation had exceeded 100 million hours, representing the best safety performance in the history of China’s civil aviation industry and the best continuous safe flight record in the history of civil aviation worldwide.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the immediate activation of the emergency mechanism for the plane crash, sparing no efforts on search and rescue, and properly handling of the aftermath.
The State Council will assign officials to deal with the accident as a priority, identify the cause as soon as possible, and strengthen the investigation of safety hazards in civil aviation to ensure the absolute safety of aviation operations and people’s lives in the future.
On the other hand, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan extended condolences over the crash of a China Eastern Airlines flight.
“We share the grief of our Chinese brothers and sisters and convey our deepest condolences and sympathies with the bereaved families,” he said in a statement.