What caused China Eastern crash? G-force from 20,000-foot plunge may have knocked out pilots

Experts are struggling to explain what caused flight MU5735 to nosedive


                            What caused China Eastern crash? G-force from 20,000-foot plunge may have knocked out pilots
The terrifying scene before flight MU5735 crashed near Wuzhou in Teng County, Southern China (Twitter/@DrChrisCombs(R)/@mssirsa(L))
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A China Eastern passenger jet crashed into the mountains on Monday, March 21, with 132 passengers on board. The incident occurred near Wuzhou in Teng County, Southern China, at about 2:20 pm, less than an hour before flight MU5735 was scheduled to arrive in Guangzhou. The tragic crash caused a mountain fire and no survivors were found by the rescue workers. 

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FlightRadar24 has released an analysis of the plane's flight path and the gathered data has left experts baffled by the plane's abrupt drop. NSW-based aviation expert Neil Hansford struggled to explain 9News how the accident occurred. He said, “It is unlikely unless it was absolutely catastrophic like the wings falling off, for it to have fallen from the sky in the way that it did,” he said.

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“This has gone straight down. It’s likely when you go through the causes it has been hit in flight with a military ordinance or there’s been a pilot intervention or a collision.


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What might have caused China Eastern Airlines to crash?

According to Boeing 777 pilot and aviation blogger Juan Browne, “There’s really only one thing that can get the aircraft in that vertical of a descent and keep it there, and that is the elevator or the stabilizer trim,” he stated to the South China Morning Post. Browne claims, however, that the elevator's "trim" setting may have been locked into a specific position, keeping the plane in a nosedive.
 
“If you can find where the nut on the jackscrew was located, you can get an idea of what the trim state of the aircraft was on impact,” Browne added. The plane's black box, which contains the plane's pilot activity, cockpit recordings, and flight data, could also reveal more information about what caused the plane's collapse.

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According to flight commentator Sally Gethin, the pilots would have been unable to save the plane during this time because the massive drop in altitude would have rendered the passengers and crew unconscious. “The 737-800 has a particularly good safety record,” Browne said. “There are thousands of them operating around the world, about 1,000 in China alone. But the fact that China Eastern Airlines is grounding all of those planes from the fleet as a precaution suggests they’re concerned about the safety of that aircraft.”

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While the gravitational force from the 6000m plunge would have knocked the pilots out, flight data may have revealed a "10 to 20-second spell where one or more of the pilots regained consciousness and attempted to save the plane," Sally said.
 
Although Gethin stated that it was "too early to speculate," the fact that China Eastern Airlines had grounded their Boeing 737 fleet could be an indication of further safety issues with the plane. “The 737-800 has a particularly good safety record,” she said. “There are thousands of them operating around the world, about 1,000 in China alone. But the fact that China Eastern Airlines is grounding all of those planes from the fleet as a precaution suggests they’re concerned about the safety of that aircraft.”

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Experts are puzzled

Initial assessments of the tragic crash appear to have puzzled experts. This is because the Boeing 737 was in the cruise stage, which is when accidents are least likely to happen.

Chinese aviation expert Li Xiaojin told The Sun that the crash should “not have happened” after analyzing the “technical point of view“. “Usually the plane is on autopilot during cruise stage. So it is very hard to fathom what happened,” he said.

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Expert Arthur Rowe also commented on the engine malfunction. “It’s unlikely to be engine related as aircraft can fly perfectly well with no engine power – for a limited time,” Rowe said. “It looks most likely a loss of control event, possibly following a high altitude stall of the aircraft. There are multiple possible causes. Jammed or unresponsive control surfaces, especially on the tail are one. An inappropriate combination of autopilot settings is another.”

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The video of the flight collapse was captured by a security camera at a local mining company. According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the Boeing 737 aircraft was flying from Kunming to Guangzhou when it "lost airborne contact over Wuzhou" city in the Guangxi region. 

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