MU5735’s Data Recorder Found; Work On Voice Recorder Continues

Debris Collection at China Eastern crash site
Debris collection at the site of China Eastern Flight MU5735 crash, March 26, 2022
Credit: CNS/AFP via Getty Images

Investigators recovered China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735’s flight data recorder (FDR) March 27 and are encouraged that damage to the unit will not prevent it from yielding valuable clues that will help explain what brought the aircraft down.

“Parts of the recorder were damaged, but the outside of the storage unit was in fairly good condition,” Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) safety office Zhu Tau said at a news conference. State media CCTV reported the FDR was found 40 m (131 ft.) from the Boeing 737-800’s main impact point, and 1.5 m below the mountainside surface where most of the wreckage has been located.

Zhu said analysis of a 1.5 m piece of debris discovered away from the accident site several days ago is part a winglet trailing edge and came down 12 km (7.5 mi.) from the primary impact point. He said a second, smaller piece of debris, was found 2.4 km north of the first.

Investigators have not determined what, if any, link the debris has to the accident sequence, he added.

Investigators continue to work with the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder (CVR), recovered March 23 and sent to Beijing for analysis. CAAC director of accident investigation Mao Yanfeng said there is some damage to the CVR storage chip, and the agency has not determined when the full download and data analysis will be complete.

Information from the two recorders should help shed light on why MU5735 crashed about an hour into a scheduled 1-hr, 55-min. flight from Kunming to Guangzhou on March 21.

Investigators have confirmed the aircraft departed its cruising altitude of about 29,000 ft. and descended rapidly into a mountainside near Wuzhou. Air traffic controllers attempted to contact the flight during its brief, sudden descent, but did not receive a response. 

Testing of more than 40 debris samples recovered from the accident site has not detected evidence of explosives, Zheng Xi, head of the fire brigade of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region told reporters March 27. The CAAC-led investigation team has released few other details.

Officials formally announced March 26 that none of the 123 passengers and nine crewmembers onboard the flight survived the accident. Officials have identified all 132 victims, the Ministry of Public Security said March 28.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.