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Pilot may lose consciousness as Chinese plane crashes vertically

The China Eastern plane carrying 132 people crashed almost vertically at hundreds of kilometers per hour, which could have caused the pilot to lose consciousness, according to experts.

Video of the final moments of China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 was widely shared on Chinese social media, hours after the plane crashed into a mountainside in Guangxi province on Sunday 21 March, showing the Boeing 737-800 almost vertically.

Experts say the Chinese plane crashed abnormally

Videos shared on social media showed the plane descending vertically. Videos: weibo.

British aviation expert Sally Gethin believes the cause of the MU5735 crash is very different from the previous crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX. On these two flights, the Maneuverable Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) malfunctioned and caused the aircraft to lift its nose too high, resulting in a crash and crash.

Gethin thinks it is too early to predict the cause of the crash with the MU5735, but thinks the tail of the plane may not have worked. According to him, when the plane fell vertically for nearly two minutes, the G-force was so great that it caused blood to flow to the brain of the pilot and the people on board.

This pressure will cause the pilot to lose consciousness and lose control of the aircraft. However, flight data show that during the descent, the plane returned horizontally in about 10-20 seconds, indicating that one or both pilots had regained consciousness and tried to save the plane but in vain.

Data collected by Flightradar24 shows that the plane was flying at an altitude of nearly 9,000 meters at around 2:20 p.m. on March 21, more than an hour after takeoff, when it suddenly began descending. After briefly regaining altitude at over 2,000 meters, the plane continued to descend at nearly 600 km/h in the last few seconds.

Flight data show that MU5735 crashed suddenly and nearly fell vertically.  Photo: Sun.

Flight data show that MU5735 crashed suddenly and nearly fell vertically. Photo: Sun.

Rescue teams were immediately dispatched to the scene, but none of the 132 people on board, including 123 passengers and nine crew, were thought to have survived, turning it into an air disaster, China’s deadliest in decades.

Experts say that when inspecting the scene, investigators will primarily focus on altitude steering, nose control and control of the plane, said Juan Browne, a Boeing 777 pilot and vlogger best known for analyzing aviation incidents.

“There’s really only one thing that can cause an airplane to descend vertically, and that is steering,” Browne said, noting that if it weren’t for a problem with this component, the plane would continue to jump up and down.

According to Browne, it is “very rare” for a plane to fall nearly vertically.

Jean-Paul Troadec, former director of the French Bureau of Investigation and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, said the MU5735 flight data was “highly unusual”, but stressed it was “too early” to draw conclusions.

The hill caught fire at the crash site of the China Eastern plane on March 21.  Photo: Xinhua.

The hill caught fire at the crash site of the China Eastern plane on March 21. Photo: Xinhua.

It is not clear whether investigators have found the plane’s black box. These devices can help them obtain information such as aircraft movements, pilot maneuvers and cockpit sounds. They can also analyze video from security cameras operated by local mining companies or video from dashboard cameras of cars moving near the scene to view the crash from different angles.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was “ready to assist with investigative efforts if requested”, while Boeing said it was coordinating and ready to assist China Eastern Airlines.

Flight MU5735 departed from Kunming Changshui International Airport, Kunming City, Yunnan Province at 13:15 on March 21, and was expected to land in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province. However, the plane crashed just over an hour after takeoff. China Eastern grounded all 737-800 planes after the crash, but has not released any information on casualties.

Gethin said the Boeing 737-800 had an “excellent safety record”, but the shutdown of this entire fleet, which includes thousands of planes, showed the airline was “concerned”.

Huyen Le (Based on SCMP, Sun)

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