Five days after an airliner crashed in the mountains of southern China, the cause of the disaster remains a mystery as the search for the plane’s second ‘black box’ continued on Friday.
Hundreds of people, many wearing white hazmat suits, combed through the impact zone and a much larger debris field along steep slopes. They were looking for a box containing the flight data recorder, along with pieces of wreckage and the personal effects and body parts of the 132 on board who perished in the accident.
Persistent rain frustrated the task, and the remote location necessitated the use of dogs and hand tools, including metal detectors more often seen at airports.
Wallets, identity and bank cards and human remains were found, along with several large pieces of wings and fuselage.
China Eastern’s Boeing 737-800 left a 20-meter-deep hole when it fell from the sky on Monday, and workers pumped out rainwater to aid in the search.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said talks are underway with China about sending an expert to help with the investigation, as is customary when the planes involved are from U.S. manufacturers.
“Travel to China is currently restricted by COVID visa and quarantine requirements. We are working with the State Department to resolve these issues with the Chinese government before any travel is determined,” the spokesperson said. NTSB, Peter Knudson, in a statement.
China Eastern, one of China’s four major airlines, said on Thursday the Shanghai-based carrier and its subsidiaries grounded a total of 223 Boeing 737-800s while they investigate possible safety risks.
China Eastern said earlier that the grounding of planes was a precaution, not a sign that something was wrong. The airline said the plane that crashed was in good condition and its flight crew were experienced and in good health.
The crashed plane was flying from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in China’s mountainous southwest, to Guangzhou, a major city and export manufacturing hub in the southeast. Authorities say there were no foreign passengers on board.
Investigators said it was too early to discuss possible causes. An air traffic controller tried to contact the pilots several times after seeing the plane’s altitude drop sharply, but got no response, officials said.
1st flight recorder found near impact area
Flight MU5735 was cruising at 8,800 meters when it crashed, starting a fire visible in NASA satellite images.
The “black boxes”, usually painted orange so that they can be easily found, are considered essential in determining the cause of the accident. They are usually stored in the rear section of the aircraft where they are most likely to survive a crash.
The first flight recorder was found relatively close to the impact area, its outer casing heavily damaged but the internal unit largely intact, investigators said.
Cockpit voice recorders can capture voices, audio alerts and background noises of engine or switches being moved. The flight data recorder stores information about speed, altitude, and direction, as well as pilot actions and the performance of important systems.