Fact Check-Animation frame miscaptioned as if showing Chinese Boeing jet crash

Following the crash of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 with 132 people on board, social media users shared an image allegedly depicting the jet at nosedive with the vertical stabilizer of its tail detached. The footage, however, is an animation that predates the accident.

A post shared more than 1,900 times on Facebook is viewable ( here ), and carries the flight identifier number in a hashtag (#MU5735).

“As seen on close up footage of the crash, vertical stabilizer (tail) of aircraft had been detached,” part of the text superimposed on the image reads.

The vertical stabilizer is part of the tail of the plane. As explained by NASA ( ), it “keeps the nose of the plane from swinging from side to side.”

Other examples of users relating the photo with the China Eastern Airlines jet accident can be found on Facebook ( here ) ( here ) and Twitter ( here ) ( here ).

The image, however, shows an animation modeling the crash of SilkAir flight MI185 in 1997 ( here ), featured in an episode of the National Geographic series Air Crash Investigation (also known as Mayday: Air Disasters) ( here ).

A higher resolution version is viewable on YouTube, posted on Feb. 9, 2022 ( here ). A similar angle of the image miscaptioned online can be seen around timestamp 0:33. The user identified it as a “crash animation” part of the series.

It features in episode 4 of season 12 of the National Geographic series ( here ) (see footage around timestamp 42:50 ( here ) ( here ).

Contacted by Reuters, Vanessa Marra, Senior Publicity Manager at Cineflix Media Inc, the producer of the show ( here ), confirmed the image was a screengrab from the series Air Crash Investigation ( here ).

A similar frame in higher quality can be found in a Quora entry from 2021 about the SilkAir 185 crash ( here ). The user credited the image to “Mayday.”

A comparison of the miscaptioned image on social media with a screengrab of the National Geographic episode can be seen ( here ).

Flight MU5735 was headed on Monday for the port city of Guangzhou from Kunming, capital of the southwestern province of Yunnan, when it plunged from cruising altitude to crash in the mountains of Guangxi less than an hour before landing time ( here ).

Rescuers in southern China searched for survivors from the crash and authorities said severe damage to the aircraft would make it difficult to establish the cause ( here ).


Miscaptioned. This image predates the crash of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 on March 21, 2022.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work   here.