Monday, March 21, 2022 – a China Eastern Airlines plane crashed into the mountains of Guangxi province in China. All 132 passengers aboard the plane at the time of the crash – now China’s worst air disaster in a decade – are presumed deceased. As investigations into the cause of the crash continue, we explore what we know so far, recent air disasters, and China’s flying culture.
China Eastern Airlines Crash: Questions, Answers & Updates
Black boxes, which act as flight recorders, are a primary objective in any air disaster investigation. The recorders hold invaluable in-flight data that often helps investigators determine the cause of a crash.
As of Friday, 3/25/22, investigators found one black box at the crash site. Unfortunately, it appears to be damaged. Officials are still searching for a second black box.
The plane plunged almost at the speed of sound, falling for around a minute before impact. Bystander footage showed the plane descending at a roughly 50-60-degree angle. China deployed 5,000 personnel and 200 vehicles to the scene. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has held consistent briefings since the crash.
Civilians and investigators found wreckage from the crash up to six miles away from the point of impact. So far, officials have uncovered 183 plane parts, including the engine.
According to officials, the plane did not deploy an emergency signal before crashing. Officials also stated that both pilots were healthy and cleared to fly, and that air recordings were normal prior to the disaster.
Investigators found a cockpit voice record, which is currently being analyzed.
The plane, a Boeing 737-800, flew 8,986 times prior to the crash.
Yes. Over 300 relatives of the passengers arrived in Guangxi as of 3/25/22. CAAC spokesperson Zhu Tao stated that “relevant parties” – including potentially the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board – would be invited to join the investigation once officials finished sweeping the crash site and started investigations into the disaster.
Currently, we don’t know. We’ll update this story as the investigation progresses and we continue to gain information about the event.
So far, we know that wreckage found a significant distance from the point of impact indicates the aircraft may have started to experience structural issues while airborne. Beyond that, no further details have been released.
Does the Crash have Anything to Do with the Boeing 737 MAX Scandal?
For many, Boeing’s 737 MAX scandal – which saw all 737 MAX planes grounded worldwide between March 2019 and December 2020 – is still a fresh memory.
As a quick recap, in 2016, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a request by Boeing to remove references to a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) from flight manuals. Then, between 2018 and 2019, crashes involving 737 MAX aircraft – Lion Air Flight 610 in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in 2019 – killed 346 passengers. After the Lion Air crash, the FAA conducted an investigation, concluding that the MCAS could cause 15 crashes over the next three decades.
The crash sparked a worldwide investigation of the 737 MAX. Investigations by multiple U.S. government agencies, as well as air travel regulation agencies from other countries, revealed a number of flaws in the 737 MAX design, as well as flight crew and maintenance training for the aircraft. Investigators also found that Boeing placed “undue pressure” on designated aircraft inspectors appointed by the FAA, pressuring them to issue airworthiness certificates to 737 MAX aircraft despite the craft’s problems.
After investigations concluded, Boeing took responsibility for the Lion Air crash. Boeing grounded 737 MAX aircraft for almost a year as a result, costing the company an estimated $80 billion between imposed fines and indirect losses. China waited until December 2021 to bring the aircraft back into service.
The China Eastern Airlines aircraft was NOT a 737 MAX. It was a 737-800, an aircraft designed as part of the generation preceding 737 MAX. 737-800 aircraft have a record of safety as good or better than many other commercial aircraft.
Pilots, Fatigue & Cockpit Culture: A Recurring Issue
Flying today is safer than ever before, and less dangerous than driving cars or motorcycles by a significant margin. Air disasters can occur for a multitude of reasons, many of which are unpredictable and outside the control of pilots or crew.
But anytime an air disaster occurs, discussions about pilot pay and working conditions become headlines. In 2014, over 100 pilots at Air China signed a letter demanding better pay and conditions. In 2021, when Southwest pilots went on strike, they claimed poor working conditions and pay as the cause.
Stories surrounding “cockpit culture” as a driving force behind pilot errors have also risen in the aviation industry in recent years. For example, when an Asiana Airlines flight crash killed two and injured 180 in 2013, industry experts pointed toward Korean cockpit culture, involving the use of honorifics and formal speech that could cost valuable seconds in life-changing situations, as a potential factor in the accident.
As the investigation continues and more parties become involved, conversations surrounding cockpit culture and pilot workloads may arise.
World-Renowned Aviation Attorneys
At Wilshire Law Firm, we’re proud to call Ilyas Akbari, Esq., a partner at our firm. A bioengineer and seasoned aviation lawyer, Ilyas has worked on a litany of notable aviation cases. His experience includes international air disasters, securing over $300 MILLION for the victims and families of air disasters.
If you or somebody you know experiences an aviation accident, we’re here to help. Contact us online or give us a call at (800) 501-3011 for a free, discreet consultation with our team.
Our thoughts are with the families affected by the Eastern Chinese Airlines crash at this time. We wish them all the best, and hope they receive the answers they need to begin moving forward.