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Chinese Boeing 737 crashes with 132 on board

A China Eastern Airlines passenger plane taxies at the airport and the runway at Liuting Airport in Qingdao, east China's Shandong province, Feb 21, 2021.
A China Eastern Airlines passenger plane taxies at the airport and the runway at Liuting Airport in Qingdao, east China's Shandong province, Feb 21, 2021. (Image credit: Future)

A Boeing 737 carrying 132 people has crashed in the mountains of China with no signs of survivors. The reasons behind the plane’s crashing are unknown, although it was not the model of Boeing 737 that became notorious for design flaws that led to two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

The China Eastern Airlines aircraft was flying from Kunming in the western province of Yunnan to the industrial hub of Guangzhou along China’s east coast at an altitude just above 29,000 feet (8840 meters) when, in a little more than a minute, it fell more than 21,000 feet (6,400 m), according to the plane tracking website Flightradar24

At roughly 8,000 feet (2,438 m), the plane took around 20 seconds to briefly regain 600 feet (182 m) of altitude, but, less than a minute later, it plunged into the ground in a wooded area near Wuzhou in southern China. Videos shared online purportedly show a large fire and plumes of black smoke rising from a mountainside area, and the crash has been confirmed by the Guangxi Emergency Management Department

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Another video, taken from a vehicle’s dashcam footage and yet to be officially verified, appears to show the jet diving nose-first behind trees into the ground. The plane was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

China Eastern Airlines issued a statement to the media expressing its "deep condolences to the passengers and crew who died in the plane crash." The company said that the cause of the crash was still under investigation.

The Boeing 737-800 left from Kunming at 1:11 p.m. local time and its flight tracking ended at 2:22 p.m., according to Flightradar24. The plane, registered as B-1791, was on its third flight of the day and had been in use for nearly seven years. Weather conditions were cloudy but with good visibility at the time of the crash, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

The 737-800 model is one of the most widely used planes in the world for short and medium-haul flights, and has one of the best safety records of any aircraft model in the world, according to Airsafe.com. The plane is not one of Boeing’s 737 Max models, a version which was banned from China and made the subject of the Netflix documentary "Downfall" following two fatal crashes of the plane in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019.

Originally published on Live Science.

Ben Turner
Ben Turner

Ben Turner is a U.K. based staff writer at Live Science. He covers physics and astronomy, among other topics like tech and climate change. He graduated from University College London with a degree in particle physics before training as a journalist. When he's not writing, Ben enjoys reading literature, playing the guitar and embarrassing himself with chess.