Item believed to be cockpit voice recorder; search continues for one with flight data
One black box of the China Eastern Airlines jet that crashed on Monday in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region was found on Wednesday. In addition, human tissue was found at the crash site.
The black box, one of two on the jet, was preliminarily identified as the cockpit voice recorder.
It was found under surface soil 20 meters southeast of the point of impact at about 4:30 pm on Wednesday, Zhu Tao, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China's aviation safety office, said at a news conference of the search and rescue command center in Wuzhou, Guangxi, on Wednesday evening.
A preliminary examination at the crash site showed the black box's exterior to be severely damaged, Zhu said.
"Its data storage unit is intact but with damage. We believe it's the cockpit voice recorder," he said, adding that it has been sent to Beijing for decoding, which may take some time depending on the severity of the damage.
Flight MU5735 left Kunming, Yunnan province, at 1:11 pm on Monday with 132 people on board. It was scheduled to arrive in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, at 3:05 pm. Air traffic controllers lost track of the airliner over Wuzhou at 2:21 pm.
Pieces of the plane's wreckage and some human tissue were recovered at the crash site near the village of Molang, Tengxian county. They have been handed over to the investigation team, Zheng Xi, head of the Guangxi Fire and Rescue Brigade, said at the news conference.
Heavy rain on Wednesday had temporarily affected the search and rescue operations, Zheng said.
As of Wednesday evening, no survivors had been found.
At an earlier news conference on Wednesday, Mao Yanfeng, director of the CAAC's disaster investigation agency, said the team hoped that by recovering both flight recorders as soon as possible, they could learn what caused the crash.
"This type of accident is rarely seen. The aircraft suddenly began to drop sharply at high speed while it was cruising." Mao said.
Mao said the Boeing 737-800 had two black boxes, its flight recorders, which were made by Honeywell in the United States. One, the flight data recorder, located at the back the cabin, could record 25 hours of about 1,000 parameters of flight data, including altitude, speed, direction and how the crew operated the aircraft. The search continued for that black box.
The other, he said, is a cockpit voice recorder, which would be at the back of the cargo hold. It could record for two to three hours anything said in the cockpit as well as ambient sounds.
Mao said the weather was good along Flight MU5735's route. Before the airliner began to plunge, the flight crew maintained normal communication with air traffic controllers.
Sun Shiying, chairman of China Eastern's Yunnan branch, said at the same news conference that the pilot and two co-pilots were in good health and qualified to fly the aircraft.
The pilot was hired as captain of the Boeing 737 in January 2018. He had 6,709 flight hours' experience. The first co-pilot had 31,769 flight hours and the second co-pilot 556 flight hours, Sun said.
"In addition, the performance of the three pilots had been good in the past and their families were also harmonious," Sun added. "Also, the plane met all the maintenance requirements before takeoff."