On 21st March 2022, a China Eastern Airlines passenger service between Kunming (KMG) and Guangzhou (CAN) operating as MU5735 disappeared from radar over Molang village in the autonomous region of Guangxi. Videos soon emerged of the side of a hill ablaze, as well as photos of the plane's wreckage. As of 3rd April, all 123 passengers and 9 crew members are presumed dead. As the world mourns for the victims and their families, let's take a look at what we know about the crash so far.
The flight, operated by a Boeing 737-800, took off from Kunming Changshui International Airport at 13:15 CST. The flight was uneventful until around 14:30, when radar contact was lost at 3,200 feet of altitude. The aircraft was recorded making two steep dives, the first was at 29,100 feet and went all the way down to 7,400 feet before climbing to 8,600 feet and then diving yet again toward the hilly terrain below. The first dive was at a recorded vertical speed of -31,000 feet per minute, which is more than beyond the aircraft's structural limits, however the level off and subsequent attempt at a climb disproves any theory regarding a structural failure.
It should also be noted that the aircraft was a 737-800, not a 737 MAX, the same aircraft type that had serious software issues causing two planes to suddenly nosedive and crash, killing 346 people. There has been a lot of confusion about this online, but the truth is that these two planes are part of two entirely different aircraft groups within the 737 family. The 737-800 was introduced into service decades earlier, in 1998, while the MAX entered service in 2017. In fact, the 737-800 has an extremely stellar safety record, with just 11 fatal accidents out of the 7000+ planes delivered.
There are many theories circulating online regarding the cause of the crash, with some speculating mechanical failure. Others have pointed out the possibility of a rogue missile strike. Others have gone as far to suggest pilot suicide, with a theory that the co-pilot was in distress after being demoted from his role as Captain, or even because Xi Jinping, Chinese president made him lose all his savings and investments with the company Evergreen, whose ship, the Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal last year leading to a blockade of worldwide trade.
These theories should be taken with a grain of salt, and with the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) having been salvaged and sent over to the US for examination on the 25th of March, it's only a matter of time before the world gets to know the truth. My thoughts go out to the victims and their families, and let us hope that the cause of this crash is quickly uncovered and some closure is brought to this horrific accident.