A CHINESE airliner that nosedived to the ground at 350mph killing all 132 on board may have been deliberately crashed by someone in the cockpit, data retrieved from the plane’s black box suggests.
Investigators looking into the crash are now examining whether it was down to intentional action on the flight deck, with no evidence of a technical malfunction found, two people briefed on the matter said.
Two black box recorders discovered in the fireball wreckage of the plane were sent to Washington for experts to recover data from, despite both being damaged.
Flight data from one of the jet’s black boxes indicates someone in the cockpit intentionally crashed the plane, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the preliminary assessment of US officials.
“The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit,” the outlet quoted a source as saying.
The latest update comes after an expert claimed pilots onboard the doomed plane may have passed out as the aircraft began to plummet, before briefly regaining consciousness as they tried to save it.
The jet, en route from Kunming to Guangzhou, plummeted to the ground on March 21 in the mountains of the Guangxi region after a sudden plunge from cruising altitude – killing all 123 passengers and nine crew members on board.
It was mainland China’s deadliest aviation disaster in 28 years.
The pilots did not respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers and nearby planes during the rapid descent, authorities have said.
One source told Reuters investigators were looking at whether the crash was a “voluntary” act.
Boeing Co, the maker of the jet, and the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declined to comment and referred questions to Chinese regulators.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which is leading the investigation, did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Investigators used hand tools, drones and sniffer dogs under rainy conditions to comb the heavily forested slopes for the two black boxes – as well as any human remains.
Harrowing images showed large pieces of the jet scattered on the ground while a blaze could be seen in the background.
Flight MU5735 left the city of Kunming at 1.11pm local time (5.11am GMT) and was scheduled to arrive in Guangzhou at 3.05pm.
Just as the plane was due to begin its descent, it suddenly lost altitude rapidly, dropping thousands of feet in a couple of minutes.
It briefly regained height for a few seconds at around 9,000 feet, before crashing to the ground at an estimated 350 miles an hour in a hilly wooded area not far from the city of Wuzhou.
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