The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has responded to The Wall Street Journal and other western media which published a story saying the preliminary data from the investigation suggests the crash of the China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 may have been the result of a deliberate act. 

The report in The Wall Street Journal says the data from the black box recovered from the China Eastern 737-800 crash shows inputs to the aircraft’s controls pushed the aircraft into its fatal dive that killed all 132 on board. 

This revelation, if later confirmed in the final crash investigation report, is significant as it would suggest the 737-800 crashed as result of deliberate act rather than being an accident.

The information in the western media was attributed to sources familiar with US officials’ preliminary assessment of the accident. 

The reports made no mention of the US National Transport Safety Bureau (NTSB), even though that is the US body that is investigating the crash, as the accident involved a US-built Boeing 737-800. 

The CAAC tells Chinese state media outlet Global Times that it has confirmed with NTSB personnel, involved in the crash investigation, who made it clear they have refrained from releasing any information to the media. 

The NTSB has also told the Global Times that while it has assisted the CAAC with the investigation, it does not comment on investigations led by other authorities, and all information related to the investigation will be released by the CAAC.

The Chinese state-owned media has quoted Chinese industry commentators criticizing the western media for publishing the reports, which are based on industry sources.  

With regard to the progress of the investigation, the CAAC says its aircraft flight accident investigation department is carrying out in-depth wreck identification, classification and inspection, flight data analysis, experimental verification and other related work, according to the investigation procedures.

The CAAC says it will continue to maintain close communication with all parties involved in the investigation, carry out the accident investigation in a scientific, rigorous and orderly manner and disclose the progress of the investigation promptly, accurately in accordance with the Convention on International Civil Aviation and the relevant requirements of government information disclosure.

On 20 April, China’s civil aviation regulator released a preliminary report on the crash, saying that the investigation so far found no abnormality in aircraft maintenance or airline personnel.

The CAAC also said that the qualifications of the crew members and maintenance personnel on duty met the requirements, the aircraft’s airworthiness certificate was valid, and there were no abnormalities in navigation and surveillance equipment along the route or dangerous weather conditions, the report adds.

The CAAC’s preliminary report said the two recorders on the 737-800 were severely damaged due to the impact, and the data restoration and analysis work is still in progress. The technical investigation team will continue to carry out in-depth investigations of the accident cause, the report says.

Picture from Lu Boan/Xinhua via AP shows search and rescue efforts at the crash site after the accident.

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