A piece of debris was found 10 kilometers away from the crash site of the MU5735 plane in Guangxi, which was suspected to have crashed in the air.
“The search and rescue team collected a total of 183 aircraft wreckage and 21 personal items at the crash site,” Zheng Xi, director of the Guangxi Fire and Rescue Bureau, said on March 24. “A long piece of debris was also found 10 kilometers away from the main impact point. 1.3 meters, 10 centimeters wide, debris that appears to be part of the aircraft.”
This is the first time Chinese authorities have confirmed the discovery of debris that may be related to the crash of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735, which was far from the scene. Rescuers are now focusing on searching within 30 metres of the mountainside impact crater, where most of the debris is believed to be concentrated.
The information given by Mr. Zheng immediately caught the attention of international aviation experts. “The question is what the hell was this and when did it come out,” said Jeff Guzzetti, former director of the FAA accident investigation.
If investigators confirm that the piece of debris came from the crashed plane, it would suggest that parts of the plane were thrown into the air before it crashed into the hillside. This could provide important clues to what caused the crash, or at least reveal the last few seconds of the flight.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration, flight MU5735 from Kunming to Guangzhou fell almost vertically on a hillside in Teng County, Wuzhou City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, without an emergency call from the pilot. The unusual accident has baffled investigators and aviation safety experts.
Aircraft such as the Boeing 737-800 are designed to prevent vertical dives, so the plane can only enter the continuous nose if there is a problem with the controls or if it is struck by the pilot.
Expert Guzzetti said that if the debris found was part of MU5735, it was likely thrown away when the plane fell from an altitude of nearly 9,000 meters in about 1 minute and 35 seconds. If so, this would provide important clues about the plane’s speed and the pilot’s maneuvers.
Flightradar24 data and video from surveillance cameras near the scene show the plane did not fully disintegrate before hitting the ground. Sensors on the aircraft continue to transmit until the aircraft is at an altitude of nearly 1,000 meters.
Flightradar24 data also showed that the plane reached near the speed of sound during its descent. According to an investigation into the December 19, 1997, SilkAir 737-300 crash in Indonesia, such speeds were beyond design, which could have resulted in damage and fracture of relatively light components on the wings and tail.
Investigators concluded that the SilkAir 737-300 crashed near the speed of sound. Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Board said there was insufficient evidence to pinpoint the cause of the accident, but the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board disagreed, saying the captain likely attempted suicide.
On March 21, a Boeing 737-800 of China Eastern Airlines carrying 123 passengers and 9 crew members crashed in the area. Four days after the crash, Chinese officials said no survivors had been found, but had yet to declare all 132 people on board dead.
Rescuers found body parts at the crash site on the night of March 23, but did not rule out finding survivors trapped on a wooded, muddy hillside.
Firefighters at the scene also recovered propeller blades, parts of the turbine and engine mounts, side spans, actuators for the automatic flywheel control system, and parts of the wingtips.
They found the black box containing the cockpit recordings and sent it to Beijing for analysis, but officials warned that the data in the black box could be damaged beyond recovery from the impact. Search teams are concentrating on finding a second black box containing flight data in hopes of providing clues to the cause of the crash.
Xuanle (according to Bloomberg)