LONDON – The 24th of March 2022 marked another dark chapter in the world of aviation.
What started as a normal day for passengers and crew of China Eastern MU5735 flying from Kunming to Guangzhou would fatally end as the aircraft dived into the mountains of the Guanxi region.
Approximately half through its two-hour journey, unknown circumstances brought the aircraft in a complete nose dive from 29,100 feet to 9,075 feet in less than two minutes and fifteen seconds.
The aircraft, a reliable workhorse in the China Eastern fleet, had passed all the maintenance checks prior to take-off thus no worry worth issues were noted.
Damaged Black Boxes…
In every aircraft investigation, after a preliminary search for the aircraft wreckage and survivors the secondary objective is to find out what caused the crash.
In this case, no elements directly indicating the cause were clear. The next element that can allow investigators to discover the cause is the black boxes that are in the cockpit.
Black boxes record everything that occurs behind the doors of a flight deck with a specific algorithm. This algorithm allows authorities to access recorded flight data.
Contrary to popular belief black boxes are orange so that they are easily findable in the event of the aircraft crashing.
600 volunteers searched the crash site finding aircraft debris and human remains. Sadly, no survivors were found. 132 passengers and nine crew died on impact.
At the completion of the preliminary search, black boxes were found. The first black box, located in the cockpit was found two days after the crash whilst the second one, located at the rear of the aircraft was found on the 20th of April 5 feet underground.
However, the CAAC regrettably informs that both black boxes were severely damaged on impact. The boxes were sent to Washington, DC, and Beijing respectively for investigation.
The Speculation Begins…
What caused the crash is still unclear however experts have been debating two main factors, mechanical error, or intentional human sabotage.
Both theories have evidence to back them up. Regardless of the school of thought experts have agreed that the limited impact sites are of extreme relevance.
Evidence backing up Mechanical failure is that according to the transcripts of the CAAC the wingtip was found at 12 km from the impact site. Two questions arise from this finding.
Did the aircraft crash because the wingtip broke off mid-flight or did the wingtip break off from the aircraft during the sudden dive which cause is not clear?
In a normal investigation, the picture would be made more complete by black boxes which through recordings would give more leads to investigators.
However, there is a cynic school of thought among experts which indicates the worst of possibilities, insider sabotage. This wouldn’t be the first time a commercial airliner is sabotaged and crashed. On the 24th of March 2015 Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed a Germanwings airliner into the French Alps, killing himself and 149 other people.
“Unfortunately, we have seen this in the airline industry before,” comments Dr. Brown from New South Wales University.
When there are clues that indicate potential sabotage, authorities normally try to create a psychological picture of the flight crew.
Onboard MU5735 there were three pilots, one of which was observing from the jump seat located at the back of the cockpit door.
Little is known (or revealed by authorities) about the three pilots. The captain had 6,709 hours of flying experience whilst the first and second officers had 31,769 and 556 hours respectively.
From what is known, the three pilots had a good record and enjoyed a harmonious life with their friends and family according to the airline’s spokesperson Shangguan Xuemin.
Dr. Brown, whose school of thought is not clear comments:
“If this aircraft was brought down deliberately, that (discovering the recording inside the black boxes) will actually be really helpful because it’s going to record every sound in the cockpit – what they were saying if anyone broke into the cockpit if any alarms were going off,”
The first box, albeit damaged is being decoded after restoration as this article is being written whilst no confirmed news of the progress of the second one has been announced.
CAAC has invited Boeing experts to partake in the investigation given that the aircraft was produced in the United States.
China Eastern has said it is offering help to 110 families who have “suffered a loss”.
Devastated relatives arrived at the site just a day after the crash. Some have spoken briefly to local media; others have posted grief-stricken laments online.