Citing “people familiar with U.S. officials’ preliminary assessment of what led to the accident,” today’s issue (May 17) of the Wall Street Journal reported that data suggests the fatal crash of a China Eastern Boeing 737-800 on March 21 was due to an intentional act by someone at the controls. “The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit,” said one of the sources. The flight was at cruise altitude when it inexplicably entered a steep dive—momentarily recovered and climbed some 8,000 feet—then resumed its dive into terrain at extreme speed. None of the 132 passengers and crew on board survived.
The U.S. inquiry includes an analysis of data from the airliner’s flight data recorder, which was found buried deep in the ground some 130 feet from the main wreckage. The cockpit voice recorder was also recovered and is expected to provide further insight into the circumstances surrounding the crash as the investigation continues. Chinese safety officials have yet to cite any evidence of mechanical or control issues. The U.S.-based investigators also contend that “Data from a black box recovered in the crash suggests inputs to the controls pushed the plane into the fatal dive,” according to the paper.
In a summary of its preliminary investigative findings, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said communications between the crew and air traffic controllers were normal before the onset of the steep dive, and that controllers attempting to contact the flight after the onset of the dive did not receive any response.
Soon after the accident, China Eastern officials released a statement indicating that the pilots’ health, family conditions and financial situations were good. However, when asked about the possibility of a cockpit intrusion, China Eastern maintained that such a scenario wasn’t plausible.