Investigators Recover China Eastern Airlines MU5735 Flight Data Recorder

The team investigating the crash of China Eastern Airlines Flight MU5735 has recovered its flight data recorder, pictured here. (Photo, courtesy of Xinhua News Agency)

The team investigating the fatal crash of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region last week has recovered the aircraft’s flight data recorder (FDR), according to a media briefing held by leaders involved with the investigation on Sunday.

On March 21, the Boeing 737-800 NG operating as China Eastern Airlines Flight MU5735 from Kunming to Guangzhou lost contact with air traffic controllers and crashed over the city of Wuzhou, Guangxi. All 123 passengers and nine flight crew members onboard were confirmed as dead on Saturday, according to a statement released by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The agency has been releasing updates about the accident investigation primarily through state affiliated media outlets such as Xinhua and CGTN, among others.

Zhu Tao, head of the aviation safety office of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told a press briefing held on Sunday that the FDR was recovered approximately 40 meters from the aircraft crash site and has already been sent to a lab in Beijing for decoding. While some parts of the FDR have damage, “the exterior of its data-storage unit is relatively complete,” Tao said.

The cockpit voice recorder from the crashed 737 was already previously recovered last Wednesday.

Flight tracking provider FlightRadar24’s replay of the flight shows that the aircraft reached 29,100 feet before taking a sharp nose dive into the ground. The playback of the flight shows that the aircraft started to climb briefly when it reached 7,200 feet and then took a second dive that ultimately crashed into the ground. The aircraft disappeared from radar coverage around 4,400 feet, according to an update released by CGTN.

Boeing released a statement Saturday following CAAC’s confirmation of the death of all 132 passengers and crew members onboard, stating, “We extend our deepest condolences for the loss of those on board China Eastern Airlines Flight MU 5735. Our thoughts and prayers are with the passengers and crew, their families and all those affected by this accident. Boeing will continue to support our airline customer during this difficult time.”

The aircraft manufacturer is providing a technical team in support of the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) to support CAAC, which has assumed the lead role in the investigation. Based on information and statements released by state-affiliated Chinese media outlets about the investigation, the Boeing 737-800 that was operated as MU5735 was first delivered to the airline in 2015 and had been in service for less than seven years.

Investigators are still trying to determine an official cause of the crash.

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