The China Eastern jet crash that killed 132 people when the craft slammed into a mountainside appears to have been an intentional act, according to a report Tuesday.
Flight data from the doomed plane suggests someone in the cockpit pushed the Boeing 737-800 into a “near-vertical” descent while cruising at a high altitude in late March, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with US officials’ preliminary assessment.
Data from a black box recovered at the crash site near the city of Wuzhou in the southern province of Guangxi indicated that controls in the cockpit led the plane into its deadly dive, sources told the newspaper.
“The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit,” one source close to the matter told the Wall Street Journal.
Chinese authorities have yet to cite mechanical or flight control issues in the March 21 crash that killed everyone onboard, the source added.
The revelation has led US officials involved in the investigation to shift their focus to the actions of a pilot, but it’s also possible that someone else on the plane stormed into the cockpit and caused the crash, sources told the newspaper.
Air safety regulators and Boeing officials have not been working on service bulletins or directives stemming from the wreck, which would be issued if authorities believed there’s a need to alert airlines to problems during the incident, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
US investigators, however, do not have all information available to their Chinese counterparts, one source told the newspaper.
An initial readout of the China Eastern plane’s flight data recorder in April suggested there were deliberate pilot inputs prior to the crash, aviation trade publication Leeham News and Analysis reported.
China Eastern officials said no evidence has been found that could confirm whether the aircraft had problems prior to the accident.
The health and financial status of the pilots were in good shape, the airline told the Wall Street Journal.
The airline also pointed to a preliminary report from the Chinese government that said efforts to restore data and analyze the plane’s damaged black boxes were still ongoing, the newspaper reported.
“Any unofficial speculation may interfere with the accident investigation and affect the real progress of the global air transport industry,” China Eastern said in a statement.
The airline also insisted a possible cockpit intrusion wasn’t plausible, citing information from a March 25 news conference during which Chinese authorities said no emergency alert had been sent beforehand, according to the report.