A Boeing 737 carrying 132 people has plummeted 30,000ft to the ground before bursting into flames in a remote Chinese mountain range – with no sign of survivors.
The China Eastern Airlines flight nosedived before smashing into the hillside and erupting in a huge fireball near the city of Wuzhou in Teng county in the southern province of Guangxi.
A rescue official reportedly said the plane had completely disintegrated while a fire sparked by the crash ripped through bamboo and trees before being put out.
Horrifying CCTV footage emerged on social media supposedly showing the jet racing vertically towards the ground in the moments before the smash.
President Xi Jinping said that he was ‘shocked’ by the incident and immediately ordered an investigation into the cause.
It is not yet clear what caused the sudden dip and crash, but aviation experts told MailOnline it may have been ‘a loss of control event’ or a sensory failure in the cockpit.
The plane, flight number MU5735 from Kunming to Guangzhou, is believed to be a Boeing 737-89P, which is not part of the MAX series that has been dogged by problems in recent years.
Shocking CCTV footage emerged on social media supposedly showing the jet racing vertically towards the ground in the moments before the smash
The China Eastern plane smashed into countryside near Wuzhou city, Guangxi region, and ’caused a mountain fire’, state broadcaster CCTV said. Pictured: Footage of the crash posted on social media
Rescuers set out to the plane crash site of Tengxian County, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, earlier today
In this image taken from video footage run by China’s CCTV, emergency personnel prepare to travel to the site of the plane crash
Boeing 737-800’s have had a series of deadly crashes in past:
- 2006: Gol Transportes Aéreos flight broke up and crashed in Brazil with all 154 on board dying
- 2007: Kenya Airways flight crashed into a swamp on the way to Nairobi with all 108 passengers and six crew dying
- 2009: Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul crashes in a field near the Polderbaan while trying to land at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport with nine people dying
- 2010: Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed into the Mediterranean Sea after taking off from Beirut, with all 90 passengers and eight crew dying
- 2010: Air India Express flight overran the runway on landing at Mangalore International Airport, with 158 passengers and six crew dying and just eight survivors
- 2016: Flydubai flight from Dubai to Rostov-on-Don in Russia crashed on the final approach, with all 62 people dying
- 2018: Air Niugini flight from Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, with a stop-off at Chuuk International Airport, undershot the runway and landed in a lagoon, with one person dying
- 2020: Ukraine International Airlines flight crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran bound for Kyiv with no survivors among the 167 passengers and 9 crew
- 2020: Pegasus Airlines flight skidded off the runway at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport before splitting into three pieces of fuselage, leaving three dead
- 2020: Air India Express flight overshot the runway while landing in heavy rain and crashed into a gorge at Calicut International Airport, with both pilots and 18 passengers dying
- 2022: China Eastern Airlines flight crashed while en-route to Guangzhou, China
China’s Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said the aircraft lost contact over the city of Wuzhou.
It had 123 passengers and nine crew on board. State media said earlier there were 133 people on board.
The CAAC said in a statement: ‘The CAAC has activated the emergency mechanism and sent a working group to the scene.’
The Aviation Safety Network tweeted: ‘We are following multiple unconfirmed reports about a possible accident involving China Eastern Airlines flight #MU5735 a Boeing 737-89P (B-1791) en route from Kunming to Guangzhou, China.’
President Xi said: ‘We are shocked to learn of the China Eastern MU5735 accident.
He also called for ‘all efforts’ towards the rescue and to find out the ’cause of the accident as soon as possible’.
One villager told a local news site the plane involved in the crash had ‘completely fallen apart’ and he had seen forest destroyed by the fire caused by the crash.
A local official added: ‘The exact location of the accident was Langnan township in Teng county.’
The flight departed the southwestern city of Kunming at 1.11pm (5.11pm GMT), FlightRadar24 data showed.
But tracking ended at 2.22pm (6.22am GMT) at an altitude of 3,225 feet with a speed of 376 knots.
The plane had been cruising at an altitude 29,100 feet at 6.20am GMT, according to FlightRadar24 data.
Just over two minutes and 15 seconds later, the next available data showed it had descended to 9,075 feet. In another 20 seconds, its last tracked altitude was 3,225 feet.
It had been due to land in Guangzhou, on the east coast, at 3.05pm (7.05am GMT).
Shares of Boeing Co were down 6.4 per cent at $180.44 in premarket trade.
Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The website of China Eastern Airlines was later presented in black and white, which airlines do in response to a crash as a sign of respect for the assumed victims.
Arthur Rowe, specialist fellow in gas turbine performance and operability centre for propulsion engineering at Cranfield University, told MailOnline: ‘It looks most likely a loss of control event, possibly following a high altitude stall of the aircraft.
‘As usual there are multiple possible causes. Jammed or unresponsive control surfaces, especially on the tail are one.
‘An inappropriate combination of autopilot settings is another – I’m not familiar with the details of this aircraft’s flight controls though.
‘Sabotage, although that’s probably unlikely on a domestic Chinese flight given the Covid restrictions on entering the country.
‘It’s unlikely to be engine related as aircraft can fly perfectly well with no engine power – for a limited time obviously.’
Professor Bharath Ganapathisubramani, from Southampton University’s engineering and physical sciences department added: ‘Having looked at this and discussed with colleagues, we think that it is far too early to even speculate on possible causes.
‘If the Flight Data Recorder and slash or the Cockpit Voice Recorder are found and are in a usable condition, we should know much more in a few months’ time, with a final, definitive answer to what caused the tragedy likely to emerge in a year or so – based on the typical timelines of such events.’
Tao Yang, associate professor in engineering at Nottingham University, said: ‘The plane was completely out of control and at this stage it is very difficult to say what has happened. However, most of the aeroplane accidents are related to sensors failure – ice protection fails.’
The China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 plummeted rapidly then appeared to have smashed into the hillside near the city of Wuzhou in Teng county
A Chinese airliner with 133 people on board has crashed in the southern province of Guangxi, erupting in a horror fire across a mountain
The China Eastern plane smashed into countryside near Wuzhou city, Guangxi region and ’caused a mountain fire’, state broadcaster CCTV said
Parts of the plane were strewn across the countryside following the crash and fireball on Monday afternoon in China
Rescuers are seen in footage from CCTV piling on to a bus as they start their mission to search for survivors of the plane crash today
The plane (file photo of it is pictured) stopped transmitting data just southwest of the Chinese city of Wuzhou, according to data from Flight Radar. Chicago-based Boeing Co. did not immediately respond to a request for comment
Boeing Max 737’s two deadly crashes: What happened?
Boeing was forced to ground the 737 Max after the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia happened less than six months apart.
The first disaster happened October 29, 2018, when a Max flying as Lion Air flight JT 610 fell into the Java Sea 15 minutes after taking off from Jakarta.
All 189 aboard the plane died, including 180 Indonesians, one Italian and one Indian.
The second crash occurred on March 10, 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302, which also was a Max jet, took off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital and crashed.
All 157 people onboard the plane died. US carriers American, United and Southwest had to cancel flights for the holidays, including over Christmas and into the new year, after the plane was grounded around the world.
Boeing reported on July 14, 2019, that customers canceled orders for 60 of the grounded 737 MAX jets in June.
The aircraft maker removed another 123 planes from its backlog over doubts that the deals will be completed.
Aviation data provider OAG said this month state-owned China Eastern Airlines was the world’s sixth-largest by scheduled weekly seat capacity and the biggest in China.
It has had a relatively strong performance in the domestic market during the coronavirus pandemic despite tight curbs on international flights, OAG said.
It is one of China’s top three airlines, operating scores of domestic and international routes serving 248 destinations.
The aircraft was delivered to China Eastern from Boeing in June 2015 and had been flying for over six years.
The twin-engine, single aisle Boeing 737 is one of the world’s most popular planes for short and medium-haul flights.
China Eastern operates multiple versions of the common aircraft, including the 737-800 and the 737 Max. The 737 Max version was grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes.
China’s aviation regulator cleared that plane to return to service late last year, making the country the last major market to do so.
The popular 737-800 variant has a maximum seating capacity of 189 and is equipped with CFM-56 engine, according to the planemaker’s website.
The engines are made by a joint venture between General Electric Co and France’s Safran SA.
The safety record of China’s airline industry has been among the best in the world in the past decade.
According to Aviation Safety Network, China’s last fatal jet accident was in 2010, when 44 of 96 people were killed when an Embraer E-190 regional jet flown by Henan Airlines crashed on approach to Yichun airport in low visibility.
The 737-800 model that crashed today has a good safety record and is the predecessor to the 737 MAX model that has been grounded in China for more than three years following fatal crashes in 2018 in Indonesia and 2019 in Ethiopia.
Boeing was forced to stop the 737 Max after the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia happened less than six months apart.
The first disaster happened October 29, 2018, when a Max flying as Lion Air flight JT 610 fell into the Java Sea 15 minutes after taking off from Jakarta.
All 189 aboard the plane died, including 180 Indonesians, one Italian and one Indian. The second was on March 10, 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines slight ET 302 took off from the Ethiopian capital and crashed.
All 157 people onboard the plane died. The plane was grounded around the world and thousands of holidaymakers and travellers missed their flights.
Boeing reported on July 14, 2019, that customers cancelled orders for 60 of the grounded 737 MAX jets in June. The aircraft maker removed another 123 planes from its backlog over doubts that the deals will be completed.
In 1992, a China Southern 737-300 jet flying from Guangzhou to Guilin crashed on descent, killing all 141 people on board, according to Aviation Safety Network.
Most of the passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared in March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, were from China.
Passengers check in at the self-service machines of China Eastern Airlines in Kunming Changshui International Airport in China’s southwestern Yunnan province after the earlier plane went down
Passengers sit in front of the self-service machines of China Eastern Airlines in Kunming Changshui International Airport in China’s southwestern Yunnan province after the crash
Passengers arrive at Kunming Changshui International Airport in China’s southwestern Yunnan province today after the horror jet crash earlier today
A flight information board shows a cancelled China Eastern Airlines flight (top) at the Kunming Changshui International Airport today
Flight Radar shows the plane taking off but not reaching its destination in the early hours
A graphic by the aviation monitoring website shows the plane plummet part-way through its journey
Flight Radar data shows how the plane plummeted thousands of feet before correcting then again falling before the horror crash
The website released data showing the aircraft’s altitude during its descent as well as its speed during the incident on Monday
The web site of China Eastern Airlines was later presented in black and white, which airlines do in response to a crash as a sign of respect for the assumed victims
CCTV said a ‘China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 plane carrying 133 people has crashed in Teng county, Wuzhou, Guangxi, and caused a mountain fire. Pictured: File photo of the area
BOEING’S 737 MAX: WHAT WENT WRONG
October 29, 2018: A Lion Air 737 MAX plane crashes in Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board
November 13, 2018:– FAA, Boeing say they are evaluating the need for software or design changes to 737 MAX jets following the Lion Air crash
November 30, 2018: Boeing is weighing plans to launch a software upgrade for its 737 MAX in six to eight weeks that would help address a scenario faced by crew of Indonesia’s Lion Air, sources told Reuters
March 10, 2019: An Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashes, killing all 157 people on board
March 12, 2019: FAA says will mandate that Boeing implement design changes on the 737 MAX by April that have been in the works for months
March 13, 2019: FAA joins other major global regulators in grounding the 737 MAX, citing evidence of similarities between the two fatal crashes
April 6, 2019: Boeing says it will cut monthly 737 MAX production by nearly 20%; U.S. and airline officials say they believe the plane could be grounded for at least two months
May 16, 2019: Boeing says it has completed a software update for its 737 MAX jets and is in the process of submitting a pilot training plan to the FAA
June 27, 2019: Boeing says it will take until at least September to fix a newly identified problem with software that emerged when FAA test pilots were reviewing potential failure scenarios of the flight control computer in a 737 MAX simulator
July 18, 2019: Boeing says it has assumed regulatory approval of the 737 MAX’s return to service in the United States and other jurisdictions will begin early in the fourth quarter
October 24, 2019: Boeing says it still expects FAA approval to fly the 737 MAX in the fourth quarter, sending its shares higher despite a slump in quarterly profit. FAA says it will need ‘several weeks’ for review
November 7, 2019: U.S. and European regulators ask Boeing to revise documentation on its proposed 737 MAX software fix
November 11, 2019: Boeing says it expects the FAA to issue an order approving the plane’s return to flight in December, forecasting commercial flights to resume in January
November 15, 2019: The head of the FAA tells his team to ‘take whatever time is needed’ in their review of the 737 MAX
December 11, 2019: FAA chief Steve Dickson says 737 MAX will not be cleared to fly before the end of 2019
December 12, 2019: Boeing abandons its goal of winning regulatory approval for the 737 MAX to resume flying in December after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the plane would not be cleared to fly before 2020
December 23, 2019: Boeing fires CEO Dennis Muilenburg
January 6, 2020: An audit conducted in December reveals that wiring in the tail of the 737 MAX could short circuit and lead to a crash if pilots don’t know how to respond correctly
January 9, 2020: Boeing releases hundreds of internal messages between employees to the Congress and the FAA last week, raising serious questions about its development of simulators and showing employees may have covered up issues
January 13, 2020: Budget airliner Ryanair reveals it could receive its first deliveries of up to 10 grounded 737 MAX aircraft from Boeing by April, but cautions this will depend on the regulators
January 16, 2020: Committee, appointed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in April, finds the FAA safety approval process was not at fault
January 21, 2020: Boeing announces it does not expect federal regulators to approve its changes to the grounded 737 Max until this summer, several months longer than the company was saying just a few weeks ago
November 18, 2020: The FAA rescinds the order that halted commercial operations of the 737 Max
December 29, 2020: American Airlines Flight 718, which left Miami around 10:30am and landed after 1pm in New York, becomes the first commercial flight of the Boeing 737 Max
January 7, 2021: Boeing agrees to pay more than $2.5 billion in a legal settlement with the Justice Department stemming from the 737 Max debacle. The agreement resolves a criminal charge that Boeing conspired to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the company and evaluates its planes. Boeing will establish a $500 million fund to compensate the families of those who died and pay a fine of nearly $244 million. The company will also pay $1.77 billion in compensation to its airline customers who were unable to use or take deliveries of the Max, which remains grounded in some parts of the world.