China Eastern Airlines crash: Analyzing the possible causes

Tiempo de lectura: 3 minutos

Unfortunately by now the whole world is aware of the tragedy of China Eastern Airlines’ flight MU5735. The accident and the events around it are one of the strangest that I have seen in my 20 years as a professional airline pilot.

Right now, and after the Boeing 737 MAX scandal, just mentioning the words “Boeing” and “737” elicit negative reactions by the general populace. Hence, it would be highly irresponsible not to point out that the airplane model involved in this accident shares nothing but the designator with the 737 MAX, in other words, its a completely different airplane. 

The 737NG is a sturdy, trustworthy platform that is one of the world’s most popular airliners with over 7,000 of them flying worldwide and an impeccable safety record.In this article I’m going to use my informed opinion after spending a few years at the helm of this precise model and I will issue my informed opinion regarding this accident. 

During the 90s, the Boeing 737 went through a series of issues that involved the servos that move its rudder, which controls the lateral movement of the airplane’s nose and is located on the tail of the aircraft. These issues affected the Power Control Unit or PCU which caused a rudder reversal when its valves became damaged by thermal shock.

The issues were the cause of several accidents and incidents in the 90s, but they were resolved and haven’t been an issue since the year 2002 when the final correction was placed into effect. A rudder reversal could without a doubt create the forces necessary to make the plane nosedive and become irrecoverable.

The next possibility is the one I believe is the most feasible of them all, this is because what we have learned so far of this incident, indicates that something was amiss in the Boeing 737’s cockpit. The kind of nosedive in which the airliner entered (and which I can confirm after practicing it in the flight simulator is irrecoverable) feels like something decidedly intentional.

If the airliner suffered a cockpit intervention and the pilots became incapacitated or a member of the flight crew is responsible for this accident, is still too soon to speculate. Nonetheless, the slight recovery that the plane experienced prior to its final nosedive, indicates that there was some kind of struggle over the yoke which was ultimately unsuccessful.

A mechanical failure will very rarely make an airliner nosedive in that fashion. Because although it’s true that they are very heavy machines, they are after all designed to glide. A dive as steep as this one, challenges the aerodynamic properties of the Boeing 737, which are by the way several and very good ones too, and is in my personal opinion an intentional event. 

Lastly but not least, if we take into account the military tensions in the region, we cannot rule out the possibility of an attack, whether it be intentional or accidental of a Chinese fighter jet or surface to air equipment against the civilian airliner. An attack of this kind would render the jetliner incapacitated and could cause it to literally fall from the sky as it did. 

With the very important find of the cockpit voice recorder or “black box”, its just a matter of time for us to learn in a more precise fashion what exactly went wrong onboard the doomed airliner. As I mentioned before, the tensions between east and west are right now at critical levels and it’s almost a certainty that Boeing will do everything in its power to get to the bottom of this accident and not let the Chinese government hide any facts that could further tarnish their very battered reputation.

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    By: Alfonso Vázquez

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