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China invites US to participate in plane crash investigation

US officials say China has invited Chinese experts to the crash site of the Boeing 737 to assist with the investigation.

“I felt encouraged when the civil aviation authorities China invite the National Traffic Safety Committee America (NTSB) participated in the investigation and went to the crash site. The Federal Aviation Administration stands ready to assist the NTSB in any way possible,” Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said today.

The statement came after the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced that it had recovered one of the two black boxes of the plane carrying 132 people that crashed in Guangxi on March 21. Initial assessments suggest this is a Cockpit Voice Recorder.

Rescue workers at the site of a plane crash on March 22.  Photo: Reuters.

Rescue workers at the site of a plane crash on March 22. Photo: Reuters.

“The outer shell of the black box has been badly damaged, but the data storage unit is only partially damaged and is relatively intact,” said Zhu Tao, a CAAC official. The black boxes are being sent to Beijing for decryption, but the time it will take to complete this process will depend on the extent of the damage.

The NTSB appointed a senior aviation safety investigator to represent the United States in the investigation into the cause of the crash. US officials confirmed that CAAC will lead the investigation, while representatives from aircraft maker Boeing, engine maker CFM and the FAA will act as technical advisers.

Chinese officials said the plane met operating standards before takeoff, and the three pilots in the cockpit were in good health. The captain was recruited by China Eastern in January 2018, with 6,709 cumulative flight hours. The first two officers had 31,769 and 556 flight hours, respectively, with the second serving as an observer to gain experience.

“The three pilots have good qualifications, their family life is relatively harmonious,” said a China Eastern official.

A China Eastern Boeing 737-800 carrying 123 passengers and 9 crew crashed on a mountainside in Teng county, Wuzhou city, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southern China, on March 21.

Search efforts have been made for the past few days, but there are still no survivors. The Chinese rescue team today had to halt search operations due to heavy rains in the area. Rainwater flooded the crater where the plane crashed, and at the same time created the risk of a landslide, threatening search forces.

This accident had a serious impact on China’s aviation industry and ended the country’s and the world’s aviation industry’s 12-year record of safe aviation. Chinese officials said they could not immediately comment on the cause of the plane’s crash.

Vu Anh (Based on Reuters)

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