The Mystery of the China Crash Deepens When Evidence Suggests a Mid -Air Split

A piece about 1.3 m long and 10 cm wide is believed to be from the plane found on farmland.

At least one Boeing Co. aircraft. The 737-800 that crashed in China appears to have missed before being hit, a discovery that adds mystery to the plane’s deadly dive.

The suspected wreckage came from a China Eastern Airlines Corp. jet. Ltd. found about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the main debris area, Chinese officials said at a briefing Thursday.

If investigators confirm that the part came from a jet, it would indicate the plane suffered some type of rupture in the air, which could give a clue as to what caused the crash on Monday or at least provide an explanation of the flight’s final moments.

“The question is: what is that part and when does it appear?” said Jeff Guzzetti, former head of accident investigation at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Flight 5735 from Kunming to Guangzhou went down without an emergency radio call from the pilot, crashing into a forested hillside about 100 miles from its destination, according to the China Civil Aviation Administration. There were 132 people on board.

The highly unusual dive has baffled accident investigators and safety experts. Aircraft like the 737-800 are designed not to dive so aggressively, so some type of aircraft failure or pilot action is required to keep its nose up for so long.

A piece about 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) long and 10 centimeters (4 inches) wide believed to be from the plane was found on farmland, Zheng Xi, head of the Guangxi firefighting rescue team, said at a briefing.

It is impossible to know at an early stage of this investigation whether the piece was released due to pressure during a high -speed jump or was disconnected before a sudden descent.

Guzzetti said it most likely happened when the plane plunged from a cruising altitude of about 29,000 feet in about 1 minute and 35 seconds.

“In my view, that’s the plane that spilled parts when it went down,” he said.

If that happens, it will give an indication of the speed of the aircraft and the possibility of maneuvering of the pilot.

Still Posting

The plane did not break completely. It continued to transmit its position until it reached 3,225 feet, according to data collected by the Flightradar24 tracking service, suggesting the main structure remained intact.

A Bloomberg News study of Flightradar24 data showed the jet flew far above normal speeds while diving, possibly approaching the speed of sound.

Going that fast boarding an aircraft not designed for such speeds can cause relatively light components on the wings and tail to slip, according to an investigation into the Dec. 19, 1997 SilkAir 737-300 crash in Indonesia.

The jet was moving close to the speed of sound as it plunged into the river, investigators concluded. Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee said there was not enough evidence to pinpoint the cause of the crash, but the NTSB objected, saying that the captain most likely deliberately committed it in a suicide.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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