Beijing: The second black box has been recovered from last week's deadly China Eastern plane crash, officials said 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. An "orange cylindrical object was unearthed" Sunday morning, Zhu Tao, director of safety at China's Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC), told reporters.
"Investigators on site have confirmed... it is the storage unit of the flight data recorder." 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. This second black box contains crucial information such as the speed of the aircraft, its altitude and heading. "While other parts of the recorder were seriously damaged, the data storage unit appears relatively intact" and "has been sent to a professional lab to be decoded", Zhu said. 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 small risk of landslides" in the large pit that was bored out by the impact of the aircraft. -Pilots 'not under suspicion'- On Sunday, China Eastern said the plane's captain and two co-pilots were not under suspicion. A preliminary investigation had shown the three men to have "excellent service records", the airline said, adding that their home situations hinted at no evidence of trouble. The captain had more than 6,700 hours of flight experience while the first co-pilot had over 31,000 hours of flight time and the second more than 550 hours, officials said previously. The aircraft 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. -Compensation process under way- The CAAC on Saturday evening said 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. Liu Xiaodong, China Eastern's director of communications, on Sunday was quoted by Chinese media as saying the process of compensating the families of the victims was already under way. 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 aeroplanes for checks. The crash is 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.