The crash of a Boeing 737-800 airliner in southwestern China sparked a fire big enough to be seen from space and forced rescuers to search a remote and rugged mountainside.
A day after the China Eastern Airlines flight fell from the sky, there are more questions than answers.
WHAT CAUSED THE ACCIDENT?
The cause is unknown. Flight 5735 was at 29,000 feet (8,800 meters) Monday afternoon when it plunged about an hour into its flight, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.com.
The plane sank to 7,400 feet (2,200 meters) before recovering about 1,200 feet (360 meters) and then submerged again. The plane stopped transmitting data 96 seconds after it began to fall.
Chinese state media and regulators gave no indication that the pilot reported problems or other information that could shed light on the cause of the disaster.
Rescuers were looking for the plane’s black box, which should contain information from the instruments and sound from the cabin.
Investigators have said after previous accidents that confirming the cause can sometimes take months or years due to the need to collect heavily damaged debris and examine specialized technical factors.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE ON BOARD? DID ANY SURVIVE?
The plane was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew from the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming to Guangzhou, an export hub in the southeast.
No survivors were found as rescuers searched the steep, charred hillside near the city of Wuzhou in the Guangxi region.
Relatives gathered at Guangzhou’s Baiyun airport were greeted by employees wearing full protective gear to guard against the coronavirus. Chinese news reports said that five hotels with 700 rooms closer to the crash site had been requisitioned for family members.
IS THIS THE SAME BOEING MODEL INVOLVED IN PREVIOUS ACCIDENTS THAT RESULTED IN ITS ROUNDING UP?
No. The plane that crashed was a Boeing 737-800, not the Boeing 737 Max, a newer model that was temporarily grounded around the world after two deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019.
Boeing 737-800s have been flying since 1998 and are widely used. Boeing Co. has sold more than 5,100. They have been involved in 22 accidents that damaged planes beyond repair and killed 612 people, according to the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network in the United States.
China Eastern grounded all of its 737-800s after the accident, China’s Ministry of Transportation said.
The Boeing 737 Max was grounded by regulators following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. A computer system that pushed the nose down in flight and could not be overridden by the pilots was blamed.
Airlines were allowed to resume use of the 737 Max after Boeing redesigned the system in a process overseen by regulators in the United States, Europe, China and the Middle East.