Search teams have found the second of two flight recorders from a passenger plane that crashed to Earth in southern China, killing 132, officials said Sunday, nearly a week after the disaster.
Flight recorders, which collect crucial information, including the pilots’ communications and data on the aircraft’s engines and performance, could help explain why China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735 lost more than 20,000 feet in altitude in just over a minute before taking off. on a hill in the Guangxi region. The Chinese authorities confirmed on Saturday what was almost certain: that none of the people aboard the Boeing 737 had survived.
Searchers dug into the muddy earth to look for evidence, and a team dug the second recorder from the hillside after spotting a telltale orange flash from the trunk, Zheng Xi, a firefighter who helped oversee the search, told a press conference†
“The other parts of the recorder are badly damaged, but the outside of the data storage unit looks decent,” Zhu Tao, an aviation safety officer with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told the news conference.
Aviation officials and experts have warned that both recorders could be severely damaged by the crash, making it more difficult to recover their data. Search crews are also trying to clear debris from the plane, which could take weeks if not longer.
In recent days, workers have been recovering parts of the plane’s engines, wings and main landing gear, along with other wreckage. Officials said they had determined the plane’s main point of impact and that most of the debris was concentrated within a 30-meter radius and a depth of about 20 meters underground. But search teams also found a four-foot-long piece of debris, likely from the plane, more than six miles from the main crash site.
The recovery of structural parts could help researchers determine how the plane broke apart using metallurgical analysis, Mike Daniel, and industry advisor and former accident investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration, said in an interview. “They need to take apart as many parts as possible to try and reconstruct the plane,” he said, although he acknowledged that a full-scale reconstruction would be “near impossible” given the impact with which the plane hit the ground.
Search teams on Wednesday found what officials say was likely the voice recorder in the plane’s cockpit and sent it to Beijing for analysis. The other flight recorder, presumably the one whose recovery was announced on Sunday† is used to store information about the aircraft’s motion, speed, altitude, and mechanical performance.
For days, hundreds of searchers in the isolated hills of Teng County in Guangxi seemed not to have given up on finding survivors, though the chances of finding another seemed slim. Heavy rainfall has flooded the area, increasing the risk of mudslides. Workers have used pumps to drain the soggy soil.
Live television footage from the area on Friday showed workers wearing medical masks and white personal protective suits as they scanned the steep, muddy terrain.
On Friday, several Chinese media falsely reported that searchers had found the second flight recorder. Xinhua, the official news agency, later said that was not true.
The Chinese government considers disasters such as the crash of Flight 5735 as possible sources of public anger against officials, and has acted quickly to contain reports surrounding the crash. State media reports have emphasized expressions of concern from top Chinese leaders and the prompt mobilization of hundreds of firefighters, paramilitary forces and other workers in the search.
In past disasters, such as a high-speed train accident in 2011, survivors and relatives of victims rioted to protest the government and demand information and redress. This time, however, relatives of the people on the run have been swaddled in official security and surveillance and largely kept away from reporters.
Hundreds of searchers at the crash site stood in silence on Sunday afternoon as horns blared for three minutes as part of a traditional Chinese mourning ceremony six days after someone died.
Additional research by Liu Yi.
Liu Yi† Joy Dong† Claire Fu and Li You research contributed.
SOURCE – www.nytimes.com