U.S. NTSB assisting in China crash flight data recorder review

Plane debris is seen at the site where a China Eastern Airlines plane crashed in Wuzhou
Plane debris is seen at the site where a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane flying from Kunming to Guangzhou crashed, in Wuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China March 21, 2022. Picture taken March 21, 2022. cnsphoto via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed on Tuesday it is assisting Chinese investigators with the review of the flight data recorder in a China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS) Boeing 737-800 that crashed March 21 killing all 132 onboard.

Reuters first reported Friday the NTSB was assisting the Civil Aviation Administration of China with the download of the cockpit voice recorder at the U.S. lab in Washington. NTSB had repeatedly declined to answer questions about the status of the flight data recorder until Tuesday when it confirmed assistance with that recorder as well.

The plane crashed into a mountainside in southern China on March 21 killing all 132 on board. It was mainland China's deadliest aviation disaster in 28 years.

Heading to coastal Guangzhou from the southwestern city of Kunming, the plane dove from cruising altitude around the time it should have started its landing descent. The flight data recorder could shed light on the cause of the crash.

The flight briefly appeared to pull out of its nosedive before resuming its plunge to earth, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24. Its data showed the aircraft was plummeting 31,000 feet per minute.

The pilots did not respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers and nearby planes during the rapid descent, authorities said.

The cockpit voice recorder will likely provide investigators with details of communications between the flight's three pilots, which is one more than is normally required on board the Boeing (BA.N) plane.

On Saturday, a team of three NTSB investigators arrived in China to assist in the crash probe. The NTSB also said Friday a small team from Boeing was traveling to China to assist in the investigation.

On Thursday, Chinese state media said the cause of the crash must be determined as soon as possible, following a meeting of China's highest decision-making body helmed by President Xi Jinping.

Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chris Reese

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