The China Eastern Airlines plane crash in March 2022 shook the world for various reasons. One, the way the plane nosedived had experts scratching their heads as to how the plane got into the position; two, it was the first plane crash in China after nearly 18 years; and three, it was rare for a plane to crash during cruising period.
Currently, the crash is being investigated by Chinese authorities as well as US officials, since the plane – a Boeing 737-800 – was manufactured in the US.
Now, there is some development on why the plane might have crashed.
The Wall Street Journal citing a source, reported that the plane might have been crashed "intentionally".
"The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit," The Wall Street Journal quoted the source, a person familiar with US officials' preliminary assessment of the crash.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
1. The report suggests that the crash was caused by someone in the cockpit – either one of the pilots or an intruder.
2. The report states that so far neither the US investigators nor their Chinese counterparts have found any technical or mechanical error with the plane that could have caused the crash. WSJ also reported that China Eastern Airlines also found no error with the aircraft.
3. However, the report did say that the US officials do not have as much information about the crash as their Chinese counterparts do.
4. Al Jazeera reported that in China, screenshots of the WSJ report were censored on Weibo – a Twitter-like platform. So far, Chinese authorities have not responded to the US report.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
1. Earlier, the Chinese authorities had claimed that rumours that the plane crash was caused deliberately by a pilot was false and was interfering with the investigation.
2. The Chinese authorities have already submitted a preliminary report about the crash to the UN agency ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) as per international aviation treaty.
3. While the report was not made public, the Chinese authorities revealed that there was no alarming or abnormal communications between the crew and air-traffic controllers during the time of the plane’s rapid descent. They also said that air-traffic controllers tried contacting the plane, but got no response.
4. Earlier, China had told that no emergency code was sent from the plane at the time of crash.
This latest report on China Eastern Airlines crash brings back grim memories of the times when suicidal pilots crashed their planes deliberately, taking hundreds of lives along with them.
Here are 6 such instances:
1. 2015 GERMANWINGS PLANE CRASH
The 2015 Germanwings Flight 9525 plane crash is perhaps the most recent deliberate crash before the China Eastern Airlines plane crash. The plane was flying from Barcelona–El Prat Airport in Spain to Düsseldorf Airport in Germany with 144 passengers and 6 crew members on board.
It crashed on March 24, 2015 in the French Alps killing everyone on board. Investigations found that 27-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately sent the plane crashing. The other pilot had briefly stepped out of cockpit for an unknown reason and was locked out by Lubitz. It was later found that Lubitz was suffering from depression and was also found to be unfit for work which he hid from his employers.
Interestingly, in both the China Eastern Airlines plane crash and the Germanwings crash, the pilots did not report a 'mayday' call.
The plane crash sent chills down the world, especially in the West. For a while, European aviation regulators mandated that two people always remain in the cockpit. If one pilot is going out of the cockpit, then a flight attendant needs to step in with the co-pilot in the cockpit for a brief period.
2. 2013 MOZAMBIQUE AIRLINES FLIGHT TM470
The plane crash in November 2013 in Namibia killed 33 people on board. From the plane’s black box recorder, it was found that one of the pilots had left the cockpit for a bathroom break, only to be locked out. In the few minutes in between, the other pilot had altered the autopilot mode. Someone was heard knocking on the cockpit door as the plane went down. In this case as well, the pilot in the cockpit never made a mayday call.
The reason for the pilot to take down the plane was not established.
3. 1999 EGYPT AIR FLIGHT 990
217 people were killed when the EgyptAir Flight 990 crashed near Massachusetts, US. In a story similar to the other two above, one of the pilots left the cockpit for washroom and found himself locked out later. The black box recorder revealed chilling details of the final moments on the flight.
The recorder picked up a commotion on one end, and on the other end, the pilot in the cockpit was heard repeating over and over again, "I rely on God." The captain of the plane was able to break into the cockpit after several minutes. He was last heard saying, "What is this? Did you shut the engine(s)? Pull with me. Pull with me."
US officials did not term it pilot suicide, but said that plane crashed due to co-pilot's "manipulation" of controls. Egyptian officials denied that the crash was deliberate.
4. 1997 SILK AIR FLIGHT MI-185
All 104 people on board the plane were killed when the plane crashed in the Musi River in Indonesia’s Sumatra. US investigators reported that the Captain may have caused the plane crash after his co-pilot briefly left the cockpit. US investigators also said that the Captain may have switched off flight recorders.
The Indonesian authorities denied the allegations of pilot suicide. Other reports claimed that the Captain Tsu Way Ming, who likely crashed the plane, was under some financial debt and also had been disciplined by the airlines.
5. 1994 ROYAL AIR MAROC FLIGHT 350
All 44 people on board were killed when this passenger plane crashed nearly 10 minutes after take-off from Morocco. Investigators found that the Captian deliberately disconnected the auto-pilot mode and proceeded to crash the plane. The co-pilot was in the cockpit with the Captain at the time, but it is likely that he was unable to undo the deadly descent.
6. 1982 JAPAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 350
This plane crashed while trying to land at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and killed 24 people out of the 174 on board. Investigation blamed the Captain for the crash, with the airlines' president at the time saying that he had suffered from psychosomatic illness just two years before the crash.
Pilot suicides are rare. Even rare are pilot suicides with passenger aircraft.
In the case of the China Eastern Airlines plane crash, there is still no conclusion on what exactly happened.