US names investigator as representative to China Eastern's Boeing 737-800 crash probe

The China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane crashed in China's Guangxi region, on March 21, 2022. PHOTOS: REUTERS: CGTN/TWITTER

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Monday (March 21) it had appointed a senior air safety investigator as a US accredited representative to the investigation of the crash of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 near Wuzhou, China.

Representatives from Boeing, CFM, a joint venture of General Electric and Safran that produced the engines, and the Federal Aviation Administration will serve as technical advisers, the NTSB added. 

Under an international agreement, the US can serve as a representative to the crash probe since the plane was manufactured in the United States.

It is not clear if or when the NTSB will travel to the crash site in China.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

After a 2018 Boeing 737 Max crash in Indonesia, the NTSB immediately dispatched investigators to Indonesia to participate in the Indonesian government’s investigation.  

Then NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt said in 2019 testimony before Congress that during the search for the "black boxes" – flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) – "an NTSB investigator was stationed onboard one of the search vessels."

The China Eastern aircraft crashed after a sudden descent from cruising altitude. Media reported that rescue workers had found no sign of survivors.

The cause of the crash was not yet known. Boeing said it was working to gather more information.

FlightRadar 24 said the jet involved in the accident is six years old.

Following the crash, Chinese state media said the airline has grounded its 737-800 fleet, which according to the flight tracking website had 109 such planes.

The popular variant is a predecessor to the Boeing’s 737 Max, which awaits regulatory approval in China, the world’s largest domestic aviation market.  

The 737-800 has a maximum seating capacity of 189 and is equipped with a CFM-56 engine, according to Boeing’s website.

It was not clear immediately if the aircraft involved in the accident had the same engine as airlines are free to choose engines from other suppliers.  

The CFM engines are made by a joint venture between General Electric and France’s Safran.

GE shares were down about 1 per cent, while France-listed Safran fell 3 per cent. The planemaker’s shares fell 4.5 per cent in early trading, while the Chinese airline’s US listed ADRs were down about 9 per cent.

Remote video URL

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.