U.S. Investigators Fly to China to Aid in Plane Crash Probe

BEIJING — U.S. accident investigators arrived in China on Saturday to help authorities look for clues into what caused last month’s crash of a Boeing jetliner with 132 people aboard.

The seven-member team from the National Transportation Safety Board will participate in the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s investigation of the March 21 crash of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 because the aircraft was manufactured in the U.S.

As part of that assistance, the plane’s cockpit voice recorder is being downloaded and analyzed at a U.S. lab in Washington, federal officials said Friday.

Investigators believe the video will help them understand why the plane took off at 8,800 metres (29,000 feet), over the mountains of southeastern China.

Chinese officials claim that the air traffic controllers failed to respond when the plane was going down.

The cockpit voice recorder will pick up the voices of pilots as well as other sounds, both from their microphones or another placed above them.

Searchers also recovered the plane’s flight-data recorder, which constantly captures speed, altitude, heading and other information and the performance of key systems on the aircraft, but that recorder was not being evaluated in Washington on Friday.

NTSB stated that investigators would limit their contact with individuals outside the scope of investigation to ensure they are able to start work without waiting for quarantine.

The plane that crashed wasn’t a 737 Max. It was a more recent model, temporarily grounded in the world after two tragic crashes in Indonesian and Ethiopia.

China’s crash created a 20-meter (65-foot) deep crater. This set off an explosion in the forest, and the plane was shredded into smaller pieces. Some of these parts were buried underground. Along with human remains, more than 49,000 pieces have been found.

Chinese safety officials said that a preliminary report on the accident would be prepared within thirty days.

With 123 passengers on board and nine crew, Flight MU5735 flew from Kunming in southwest China to Guangzhou. Guangzhou was a significant city and an important export center near Hong Kong.

The 737-8800 is a safe aircraft with very few accidents in the recent past.

Before last month’s accident, the last fatal crash of a Chinese airliner occurred in August 2010, when an Embraer ERJ 190-100 operated by Henan Airlines hit the ground short of the runway in the northeastern city of Yichun and caught fire, killing 44 people. Investigators blamed pilot error.

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