Recovered flight data from the cockpit of the China Eastern Airlines jet that crashed in southern China earlier this year has suggested that someone in the cockpit intentionally nosedived the plane.
This update came from people familiar with US officials’ preliminary assessment of what led to the accident, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Boeing 737-800 suddenly nosedived after cruising at a high altitude, plummeting into the mountains between Kunming and Guangzhou.
All 132 people who were onboard the plane are presumed dead.
A person who is familiar with American officials’ preliminary assessment weighed in on the situation.
“The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit.”
The flight assessment includes an analysis of information extracted from the plane’s damaged flight data recorder.
No mechanical or flight-control problems with the plane have been flagged by Chinese authorities leading the investigation, according to the source.
The Boeing 737-800 is seen as having one of the best safety records in commercial flying and as a workhorse of the global aviation industry.
Based on information gathered so far, US officials have looked towards the actions of a pilot, those familiar with the situation said.
There has also been speculation about whether someone deliberately caused the crash after breaking into the cockpit.
Neither safety regulators nor air-safety regulators have been working on any service bulletins or safety directives stemming from the crash, those familiar with the matter said.
These messages would be used if authorities believed there was a need to alert airlines and pilots to problems the flight crew encountered in the accident or detail needed fixes to the plane.
These investigations can turn up previously unknown evidence that can bolster or undermine preliminary assessments.
Sources told WSJ that Americans don’t have all the information available to their Chinese counterparts.
China Eastern Airlines said that it’s not responsible for the accident investigation and pointed to official documents, including the Chinese government’s summary of its preliminary report on 20 April. Data restoration and analysis of the black box are still in progress, the summary said.
“Any unofficial speculation may interfere with the accident investigation and affect the real progress of the global air transport industry,” the airline said.
When asked by the WSJ about whether a cockpit intrusion was possible, China Eastern said that was not plausible.
The airline cited info from a news conference in late March where Chinese authorities said no emergency code was sent from the plane before the crash.
China Eastern grounded its fleet of Boeing 737-800 for about a month following the crash and said it continued to inspect aircraft that was manufactured around the same time as the plane.
Accident-investigations agencies can take about a year or more to issue final conclusions about a crash’s causes and contributing factors.