China air crash that killed 132 may have been deliberate, says US report

A China Eastern Airlines plane that crashed in March, killing 132 people, appears to have been intentionally flown into the mountainside below by someone at the controls, according to reports.

Analysis by US officials of the black box flight recorders found amid the wreckage suggests deliberate input from the cockpit forced the Boeing 737-800 plane into its catastrophic dive.

The Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed source who said: “The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit.”

The China Eastern plane was cruising at a steady altitude and speed before it suddenly descended more than 20,000ft in just over a minute, and crashing near the city of Wuzhou in Guangxi province.

Chinese investigators have led the crash inquiry but US officials are involved as the plane is US-made.

While faults in the design of Boeing’s later 737-Max model were behind two fatal disasters in 2018 and 2019, leading to the model’s grounding worldwide, the 737-800 has long been in everyday service around the world.

Aviation experts had noted that the flight pattern shown on tracking sites, and lack of reported mayday call or any loss of data signal, resembled the Germanwings crash in 2015. On that occasion, the Airbus A320 passenger plane was crashed deliberately by the pilot as it crossed the French Alps, killing 150 people.

The WSJ reported that Chinese authorities have not indicated to their US counterparts that there was any mechanical or flight-control problems with the plane that crashed on 21 March.

China Eastern has said that the pilot and co-pilot had both been in good health, with no known financial or family issues. Authorities in China said soon after the crash that no emergency code had been sent from the plane, suggesting no intruder could have reached the cockpit.

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China’s air regulator has not commented beyond saying last month that investigators were continuing their inquiries.