A black box containing the flight recorder was recovered Wednesday from the wreckage of a China Eastern passenger plane that crashed earlier this week, officials said.
The flight recorder from China Eastern Flight MU5735, a Boeing 737-800, was found, Liu Lusong, a spokesman for China’s aviation authority, told reporters. State media outlets later claimed that the recorder was badly damaged.
Boeing 737-800 planes are equipped with two flight recorders. Officials are still looking for the other recorder.
“At present, it is unclear whether it is a data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder” that was located, said another Civil Aviation Administration official, Mao Yanfeng, during a news conference, according to the AFP news agency.
Previously, officials said that all 132 people on board the plane were killed in the crash. No survivors were found during a search of the plane’s wreckage.
The search for clues into why a Chinese commercial jetliner dove suddenly and crashed into a mountain in southern China had been suspended earlier Wednesday as rain slickened the debris field and filled the red-dirt gash formed by the plane’s fiery impact.
Flight 5735 was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members Kunming in Yunnan province to Guangzhou, located on China’s southeastern coast, when it crashed on Monday afternoon outside the city of Wuzhou. Following the crash, video footage uploaded online purportedly showed the plane diving at a steep angle.
So far, investigators have not revealed what likely may have been the cause. Boeing 737-800 jets are generally said to have a stellar safety record.
The plane, which made its debut in 1998, is an earlier model than the Boeing 737 Max, which was grounded around the world for several years following two crashes in 2018 and 2019.
Flight data suggested the plane plunged more than 26,000 feet in the span of about 95 seconds, according to Flightradar24, although some experts have said the website’s data is preliminary.
The crash “[is] very odd,” Jeff Guzzetti, the former accident investigation chief for the Federal Aviation Administration, told Bloomberg News.
“It’s an odd profile,” aviation safety consultant and former Boeing 737 pilot John Cox said in reference to video footage showing the plane plunging at a steep angle into the ground. “It’s hard to get the airplane to do this.”
“You need something to hold the nose [of the 737-800] down,” former National Transportation Safety Board investigator Benjamin Berman noted.
Other aviation experts explained that once jetliners reach a cruising altitude, they are difficult to crash.
“Once they’re at cruising altitude, generally aircraft don’t crash. Most accidents occur on the landing and take-off phase of flight,” Paul Hayes, director of air safety and insurance at aviation consultancy Ascend by Cirium, told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
As for the cause, Cox told the WSJ that “everything is on the table right now.”