A Shattered Safety Record - China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735
As of 21st March 2022:
On 21st March 2022 at 2.22 pm local time (6.22 am UTC), China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735, en route from Kunming to Guangzhou, crashed into a forested mountainous area outside of the town of Wuzhou. All 132 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft were killed.
About the aircraft
The aircraft in question is a 6-year old Boeing 737-800 (89P) with the registration number B-1791. The aircraft belonged to China Eastern Airlines throughout its history and was painted in the “Yunnan Peacock” livery. Prior to the crash that day, B-1791 had operated two flights to and fro between Kunming and Chongqing.
What do we know so far?
The aircraft was ferrying a total of 123 passengers, accompanied by 9 crew members to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. Based on the details from Flightrader24, Flight 5735 departed from Kunming Changshui International Airport (KMG) at 1.11 pm local time. The aircraft then climbed steadily to a cruising altitude of 29,0000 feet, where it remained for most of the flight. The flight track then showed a rapidly increasing descent beginning at 2.20 pm. Over the next 2 minutes, the aircraft’s descent rate increased rapidly to 31,000 feet per minute just prior to impacting the ground. Upon impact, a forest fire quickly developed. The Civil Aviation Administration of China has verified that all 132 passengers and crew have been fatally injured in the crash.
In the aftermath, an amateur video showed local residents stumbling on a piece of the aircraft’s under-wing structure in the dense forest near the crash site, while another video showed the massive blaze resulting from the crash billowing smoke hundreds of feet into the air. The CAAC has dispatched its team of investigators to the site, and the investigation is underway.
China’s aviation industry has been ranked as one of the safest in the world, with no fatal accidents in the last 6 years. Similarly, China Eastern Airlines had a good safety record, with no fatal accidents since 2004. Additionally, the Boeing 737-800, part of the 737 Next-Generation series, is also one of the safest aircraft versions to fly, with the only 2 known incidents attributed to aircraft design of the NG series:
Southwest Airlines Flight 3472, 27 August 2016: Uncontained engine failure due to premature fatigue cracking of fan blades resulting in the breaching of the passenger cabin. No fatalities reported
Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, April 17, 2018: Repeat occurrence of similar root cause as previous. 1 passenger died from her injuries as a result of being partially ejected from the aircraft.
In all, the Boeing 737 NG series has suffered a total of 13 fatal accidents and 11 non-fatal hull losses, most of which were attributed to pilot error or external factors. However, it is too soon to speculate the cause of the accident, as no evidence or additional details have been released at this point. But with the Boeing 737 MAX only having been recently re-introduced into service, and the public still weary from the public relations of the saga, the crash of Flight 5735 does cast a long shadow on the Boeing 737 program. It is with hope that the CAAC team will be able to quickly determine the cause of the accident.
And it goes without saying, our prayer goes out to the 132 souls on board the ill-fated flight, and to their loved ones.