How can a Boeing 737 plunge to Earth like a ballistic missile?

Aviation experts are baffled by data showing that a China Eastern Boeing 737-800 about to land in the southern city of Guangzhou suddenly plummeted to earth like a rocket, killing 123 passengers and crew members. Nine crew members on board the plane were killed on Monday.

This horrifying disaster, the worst in recent Chinese aviation history, highlights that the kind of data that once took investigators at least a day to gather is now available instantly from websites. open source tracking websites like FlightRadar. As a result, speculation about the cause of the crash created an immediate Twitter storm as pilots and technical experts tried to explain what they were looking at.

In this case, there is a remarkable consensus that something very unusual happened that cannot be directly related to previous disasters involving this version of 737, one of the jetliners. The most powerful flying force in the world, before the 737-MAX version was built almost two years after two catastrophic crashes.

The flight pattern revealed by radar showed the plane was flying at 29,100 feet over mountainous terrain, with the crew preparing to land, when the nose suddenly lowered and began to dive. As it approached the terrain, it appeared to briefly pull up but then continued to descend again to impact with great force.

The only certain details are what didn’t happen: there was no sign of an engine fire and no indication that any major parts of the plane had broken. Notably, there was no time for the crew to send a Mayday distress call.

There have been several cases of various models of 737s experiencing decompression explosions, when part of the fuselage structure, weakened by undetectable cracks in the outer shell, suddenly ripped open and air in the pressurized cabin was released in an explosion, but even with that damage the pilots were able to bring the plane down safely, even with parts of the cabin open to the sky.

But those events happen early in flights, when the aircraft is reaching cruising altitude, not as in this case at the end of the cruise and at the beginning of the approach to the airport.

An aerospace engineer, commented on Air messenger The website says, “It’s not unusual for a plane to nose-dive, it’s had a lot of breakdowns.” Another said, “For those who can’t think of any… there are many. Some repeat from things that have happened, perhaps something that never happened before. Aviation is like that.”

There was one case of a similar dive: in 1997 Silk Air Flight 185, when an earlier 737 model crashed into a river in Sumatra, killing 104 people, where an investigation An investigation by the US National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the pilot did it on purpose. caused the crash to commit suicide, but this ruling was contested by Indonesian regulators, who cited problems with the steering wheel control as causing other crashes of that model. .

Another possibility is that although no problem is visible on the radar rails, some part of the horizontal stabilizer, which would be activated to initiate lowering, may have been damaged.

All of this leads to an urgent mission — to find the answer where it should be, in the plane’s black box. The crash site is accessible and the teams are making their way there. However, there is some concern that these flight data recorders may not survive such a devastating impact.

China’s regulatory and investigative agencies are highly regarded. China was the first country to land the 737-Max and the last to allow it to re-enter the skies. Domestic air travel in China has grown rapidly over the past decade, but there have been very few accidents. How can a Boeing 737 plunge to Earth like a ballistic missile?

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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