Beijing — The second black box has been recovered from last week’s deadly China Eastern plane crash, state media reported Sunday, and could help solve the mystery of the jet’s breakneck descent.
The Boeing 737-800 was flying between the cities of Kunming and Guangzhou on Monday when it nosedived into a mountainside, disintegrating on impact and killing all 132 people on board.
The cause of the disaster, China’s deadliest plane crash in more than 30 years, is not yet known.
“The second black box from China Eastern flight MU5735 was recovered on March 27,” Xinhua news agency reported.
Public broadcaster CCTV broadcast images of rescuers recovering an orange-colored cylinder covered in soil, which was discovered 1.5 metres deep at the roots of a tree.
The plane was equipped with two flight recorders: a cockpit voice recorder and one in the rear passenger cabin tracking flight data.
The former was found on Wednesday and sent to Beijing for analysis, which is expected to take several more days.
The second black box contains data such as speed, altitude and heading.
Hundreds of people, including firefighters, doctors, and investigators — some dressed in full body protective suits — remained at the scene of the tragedy on Sunday recovering human remains and the wreckage of the plane.
Earthmovers assisted in the operation on the mountainside, which is covered in dense vegetation.
Early recovery efforts were hampered by heavy rain, forcing a temporary pause due to what state media called the “the small risk of landslides” in the large pit that was bored out by the impact of the aircraft.
Thousands of feet in a minute
The Boeing 737-800 plane went down near Wuzhou in southern China on Monday afternoon after losing contact with air traffic control.
Tracking website FlightRadar24 showed the jet sharply dropped from an altitude of 29,100 to 7,850 feet (about 8,900 to 2,400 metres) in just over a minute.
After a brief upswing, it dropped again to 3,225 feet, the tracker said. There is no data for the flight after 2:22 pm.
The captain had more than 6,700 hours of flight experience and the first co-pilot had more than 31,000 hours of flight time, officials said.
The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) on Saturday evening said that all of the people on board the aircraft had died, and that almost all their identities had been confirmed through DNA testing.
All 123 passengers and nine crew members were Chinese nationals.
The disaster provoked a swift public response from President Xi Jinping, who ordered a probe into its cause as aviation authorities vowed an extensive two-week check-up of China’s vast passenger fleet.
China Eastern also grounded all 223 of its Boeing 737-800 airplanes for checks.The crash represents a major setback for the return for Boeing’s 737 MAX in China, the last big market where the US planemaker is still awaiting approval to resume flying following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a combined 346 people in 2018 and 2019.