China Eastern Airlines plane crash that killed 132 in March may have been deliberate, US report finds

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The black box flight recorders indicate that inputs to the controls intentionally put the plane into a nose-dive

The China Eastern Airlines plane crash that killed 132 people earlier this year appears to have been intentionally flown into the mountainside by someone at the controls, according to analysis of the black box flight recorder by US officials.

The black box, found amid the wreckage, suggests that deliberate input from the cockpit forced the Boeing 737-800 plane to nose-dive on 21 March.

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

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

What the flight data suggested

The Boeing 737-800 crashed into the mountains of Guangxi on 21 March during a flight from Kunming to Guangzhou.

All those on board, 123 passengers and nine crew members, were killed.

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Late on Tuesday (17 May), the Wall Street Journal reported that flight data from one of the plane’s black boxes indicated that someone in the cockpit intentionally crashed the jet.

The report cited people familiar with a preliminary assessment done by US officials.

It added that there was no evidence so far of technical problems with the aircraft.

It is not yet clear whether it was one pilot acting alone or if there was a struggle or a passenger breaking into the cockpit.

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How Chinese authorities have reacted to the crash

Chinese investigators have led the crash inquiry but US officials are involved as the plane was made in America.

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.

However, the 737-800 has continued to be 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.

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On that occasion, the plane was crashed deliberately by the pilot as it crossed the French Alps - killing 150 people.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese authorities have not indicated to their US counterparts that there were 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.

Soon after the crash no emergency code had been sent from the plane which suggested that no intruder could have reached the cockpit, according to authorities in China.

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

A final report into the crash could take more than two years to complete, Chinese officials have said.

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