DALLAS – The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) confirmed the crash of a China Eastern Airlines (MU) Boeing 737-800 operating flight MU5735 with 132 people on board. The aircraft had lost radar contact when flying over mountainous terrain en route from Kunming to Guangzhou in Southern China.
The 6-year-old aircraft involved in the disaster was a Boeing 737-89P (WL), reg. B-1791, serial number 41474. According to planespotters.net, the aircraft performed its maiden flight on June 5, 2015, and was delivered to MU on June 22, that same year. The type flew 17,708 hours and performed 8734 take-offs and landings.
The CAAC has activated emergency protocols, with Search and Rescue services on their way to the suspected crash site in Guangxi, an autonomous region located about 285nm (530km) west of Guangzhou. As per reports from flightradar24, the last ADS-B data from flight MU5735 shows a steep descent rate before disappearing from radar.
China Eastern has confirmed the accident through its Weibo social media channel, informing that nine crew members and 123 passengers were on board flight MU5735. In addition, the airline opened an emergency phone hotline for the relatives of those on board. The number is +864008495530.
Chinese Airlines, Boeing 737 NG Safety Records
The last major airline disaster in China occurred in 2010 when a Henan Airlines (VT) Embraer ERJ-190LR crashed while attempting to land on a hazy runway at Harbin-Taiping International Airport (HRB). 44 of the 96 people on board Flight VT8387 perished in the ensuing fire. That was 12 years ago.
According to state news agency Xinhua, Chinese airlines logged 100 million hours of safe flight last year. MU is one of the country’s largest airlines, with the Chinese government owning a significant portion of the company.
With 5,170 aircraft delivered between 1998 and 2022, the Boeing 737-800 Next Generation (NG) model involved in the crash has an optimal safety record. The 737 NG family aircraft is the predecessor to the 737 MAX family aircraft that was grounded for 20 months following two fatal crashes.
China has not lifted the grounding to the Boeing 737 MAX, and therefore local and foreign airlines are barred from operating the airliner in the country.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered an investigation into the causes of the 737 NG crash, Xinhua News Agency reported. Xi called for “all efforts” towards the rescue and determining the causes of the accident “as soon as possible.”
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) posted a message on its Twitter channel, offering assistance in the investigation efforts “if asked.”
Chinese airlines generally have a satisfactory safety record. The last major accident happened 12 years ago when a flight from Harbin crashed in Yichun, killing 42 people.
- According to Newsweek and Bloomberg, MU will ground all Boeing 737-800 aircraft on Tuesday, March 22. There were 18 MU Pilots on board MU5735, bound to take their recurrent training in Guangzhou.
- The Financial Express reports that India’s DGCA has put the Boeing 737 fleets of SpiceJet (SG), Vistara (UK) and Air India (IX) Express on “enhanced surveillance.”
- The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has appointed a senior air safety investigator as a US accredited representative in the investigation into the China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 crash. Representatives from Boeing, General Electric, and the FAA will serve as technical advisors. The CAAC will lead the investigation.
This is a developing story—more updates to follow.
Featured image: The China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 that was involved in the accident. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways © All rights reserved.