In March 2022, a China Eastern Boeing 737 crashed while operating a domestic flight in China, killing all 132 people onboard. While we knew that the plane had entered a nosedive, we haven’t known much about what caused that… until now.
China Eastern Boeing 737 nosedive was intentional
The Wall Street Journal is reporting an update regarding the crash of China Eastern flight MU5735, which was scheduled to operate from Kunming (KMG) to Guangzhou (CAN). According to US officials familiar with the matter, data from the black box suggests that someone in the cockpit intentionally caused the plane to crash, by pushing the controls in a way that forced the plane into a nosedive.
Currently the focus is on the pilots, though it’s not yet known for sure if it was one of the pilots who made the inputs that caused the nosedive, or if there may have been someone else in the cockpit. I imagine those details will be figured out over time as well.
This news is simultaneously reassuring and terrifying:
- On the one hand, the Boeing 737-800 is one of the safest planes in the sky, and it’s good to know that there didn’t seem to be a mechanical issue that caused the plane to crash
- On the other hand, it’s terrifying to think that someone wouldn’t just take their own life, but also the lives of so many other people
Many airlines have eliminated the two-person cockpit rule
I’m not generally someone who is concerned too much with airline safety, since even the least safe airline is safer than most other forms of transportation (and in this case China Eastern actually has a very good safety record).
From a safety perspective, personally the thing that gives me the most pause when boarding a flight is the mental health of pilots. I tend to think that aviation is so safe because we learn from virtually every incident. Over the years there have been a countless number of planes that have been crashed intentionally, yet I feel like this is one area where not many lessons have been learned:
- When planes are intentionally crashed by pilots, it’s almost always when there’s just one person in the cockpit (typically while the other pilot is stretching their legs or using the bathroom)
- Following the Germanwings crash in 2015, many airlines around the globe introduced a policy whereby there always need to be at least two people in the cockpit; that’s to say that if a pilot needs to use the restroom and there are no relief pilots, a flight attendant will enter the cockpit
- While many airlines introduced this policy at the time, so many airlines have quietly repealed it since then
For what it’s worth, this rule existed in the United States before the Germanwings crash. However, in many other parts of the world, such a policy was introduced in 2015, but then eliminated within a couple of years.
I’m not making these comments specific to this incident, because we don’t know what exactly happened. Rather I’m just sharing that pilot mental health is something that gives me pause, and I find it disappointing how many airlines have abolished the two person cockpit rule. I’m not sure if that was in any way a factor here, but I’m sure time will tell.
A China Eastern Boeing 737 tragically crashed in March 2022, killing all passengers onboard. Black box data now suggests that the crash may have been intentional, as it was inputs from the cockpit that made the plane enter a nosedive.
What do you make of this China Eastern Boeing 737 crash update?
(Featured image courtesy of Shadman Samee)