Data Points To Intentional Crash Of China Eastern Boeing 737-800

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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.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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28 COMMENTS

    • Gregory W. March 27, 2022 At 10:53 am “Pilot homicide.”

      Gregory, may I call you Greg? Man, I love it when I’m correct. But I doubt it now Greg. Your inner voice appears to be aligned with the “intentional dive” investigative flow or likely pilot homicide/suicide. Enjoy!

      • Raf, you can call me anything but late for dinner! No joy in this terrible case of multiple homicide. I just thought all the hand wringing and pearl clutching that occurred after a nobody voiced a simple opinion about an obvious likely cause was a bit overboard.

    • If you speak Latin, then it is undoubtedly plural. However in modern English usage data is also used as a mass noun which has no plural.

      If I ask “how many data do you have?” and the answer is “about 10 Gigabytes” then the question should have been “how *much* data do you have?”.

      • An odd digression for discussing an unspeakable tragedy, the likes of which we’ve not seen since EgyptAir Flight 990. Or so it seems from this story.

        But, gods and heaven forgive me, I cannot resist, alas. You’re both right. Data is the plural of datum but the issue of “data is” or “data are” remains unsettled. In formal writing, or writing for publication, it all depends on the style guide you’re following.

        As for everyday usage, the only time datum is used is for weight and balance calculations. 😂

    • Good question, supplemental ‘why not just commit suicide quietly?”

      Sometimes anger with employer as aviation the case in California decades ago. Sometimes wild lashing out, other times publicity for a political cause or a religious cause.

      Certainly deranged people, many of those about – look at police-court cases of violent murders, abuse, and uprovoked attacks on the streets of downtown Sictoria BC. I’ve noted two murders of students by fellow students in my area, by known vicious bully and known negative-minded people. As the shooters in Columbine High School were.

      Society needs to get better at spotting high risk people, without harming freedom. Police and school authorities failed to curb the killers of students in my area – principal of one school planned to solve the problem by transferring the witch to another school. (Fortunately she retired not long after the murder.) In the case of rape, torture, and murder one school district official tried to claim it was not possible to spot the killers in advance. Usually there were warning signs well ahead of time, such as in the Orlando case and the shooting of a congresswoman in AZ.

      Yet municipal councilors work against policing – Sictoria BC is especially bad, one female made a vicious lie about me because I supported protecting females against rape. Sickness is widespread in Canada-UK-US type societies – and there’s Vladimir Putin.

  1. Point to ponder (assuming that it WAS an “intentional crash): This would be a mass murder (132 people). Why no cries to ban airliners? In fact, if ANY weapon (knife, car, firebomb, etc.) is used the PERSON is (correctly) blamed (in this case the pilot) BUT, if a gun were used, the focus is immediately on the inanimate object: the firearm, with calls for more control or outright banning. Why does society do this?

    • Lack of critical thinking ability and a need to see the world through an emotional lens. You didn’t mention the fact that forks cause obesity and keyboards are the reason for misspelled words.

      • Thankyou for pointing that out.

        With some who voters were stupid enough to elect I suspect they want less restriction on their violence in political causes, a problem in Canada recently with terrorism over a natural gas pipeline. With people like David Sleazuki and MP Elizabeth The Crim May inferring acceptability of violence (she initiating force herself in violation of a court order).

        Of course Marxists have an underlying ideology supporting then notion that people are not capable.

    • “Why does society do this?”

      I think it’s because people view cars and airliners as being designed to help people when used correctly. It’s only when they’re misused that they cause harm. The problem is not the tool, it’s the misuse of the tool. Whereas people view guns as being designed to harm people, even when used correctly.

      Now, there are exceptions – tanks and fighter jets are arguably cars and planes designed to kill. And nail guns and target rifles are designed for non-lethal purposes. But for “society” at large, they view ‘guns’ as designed to kill people, and cars and airliners are not.

  2. Given that the investigation is being run by China, I doubt we will ever know the true story. The last thing they will ever admit is a Chinese pilot intentionally flew the aircraft into the ground. Note the source of the information is US based, CACC is hiding the Preliminary report and the “summary” basically says everything was fine and dandy.

    • I don’t believe the Egyptian government ever accepted the suicide conclusion for Egyptair 990. Same sort of reaction from Indonesia on the crash of SilkAir 185 when NTSB’s lead investigator opined it appeared to be suicide (although that one was finally ruled “inconclusive”).

  3. While people want early indication in order to take action, such as inspecting certain parts, seems some investigators have loose lips.

    (Of course airlines should be observant after a crash of model they fly. We were, making specific checks if a system was potentially the cause, but not if a crash occurred on approach in bad weather without ILS.

    Determining cause of some crashes is difficult of course, especially if not all recorder data was available. A Pacific Western B707-320C was on back course approach to YEG in darkness, seeming stable then drifted low, best guess of investigators was an electrical problem and inexperienced F/O was distracted from his PF duty.

  4. The rumored scenario is the FO used to be a Captain, and after failing the sim as a Captain he was demoted to FO. So he was the FO on the day of the crash….and the Captain was the guy who failed him in the sim. Hence CFIT.

    • Nobody knows the facts (yet), but his has suicide-murder written all over it. The flight tracking was completely stable at cruise and then it just nose dived. Yeah that’s just not a random runaway trim or some other system failure. It was not a bomb because the still photo shows the fuselage fully intact headed straight down (minus flight surfaces ripped off from overspeed).

      If true, sadly it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened around the world and it definitely will not be the last. Especially as airlines globally struggle to fill pilot seats between retirements and new aircraft coming into their fleets and lower hiring standards. Then there are issues around culture and mental health privacy concerns as we saw with the Germanwings Flight 9525 murder-suicide into the side of the Southern Alps. Germany’s mental health privacy law for example kept the doctor from notifying the airline of his patient’s (the co-pilot) mental health struggles – even as the doctor’s review stated the pilot should NOT return to duty.