WATCH: Video Shows Chinese Boeing 737 Nosediving Into the Ground, 132 Souls Aboard

A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashes in China (Credit: @RealRajanjha)

A Boeing 737-800 passenger jet operated by China Eastern Airlines has crashed in rural China, presumably killing all 132 souls aboard. Video of the plane nosediving into the ground and the aftermath has emerged.


As is expected with any video of this kind, viewer discretion is advised.

Much is unknown at this point, but I am a commercial multi-engine pilot and a flight instructor so I can add a few points of speculation to ponder.

According to the flight data available, the rapid descent started at around 30,000 feet. That would point to either a structural failure that caused a loss of flight controls or a high-altitude stall (which can happen at cruise speeds). Did the pilots botch the recovery process or did the flight controls fail completely for some reason? The time to impact was only 3 minutes.

A multi-engine plane can also end up on its back and in a dive due to what’s called VMC roll, which means you’ve taken the plane below its minimum controllable airspeed on a single-engine (I’m assuming an engine failure in this speculation). If not responded to correctly (and immediately) at the impending occurrence, the plane would be thrown on its back and into a spin. The plane is not in a spin in the video, but we only see the tail-end of its descent. It’s possible enough speed was gained to break the stall condition and exit the spin, but the plane was damaged to the point where recovery was impossible.


Further, the weather does not look good in the videos, which leads me to suspect they were in IMC (i.e. in the clouds) when this happened. That could lead to disorientation, though a 737-800 would absolutely have been on autopilot at 30,000 feet in this situation. Yet, if the pilots were surprised by a high-altitude stall with the autopilot on, not being able to see out the window may have hampered their ability to take the necessary steps to recover.

Chinese airlines have a reputation for staffing low-time pilots who were put through “pilot mills.” The minimum time Americans pilots are required to possess and the breadth of experience most have by the time they reach a major airline (i.e. that operates a 737-800) is far, far beyond your typical Asian airline pilot. In the end, most crashes are a result of pilot error, and that remains a likely factor in this case.

Again, though, I’m deep in speculation and worst-case scenarios at this point. It is also possible that this was some kind of mechanical phenomenon as occurred with the 737-Max crashes (those are still grounded). I would think a 737-800 would have some kind of automated high-altitude stall protection, but I can’t say for certain.


How forthcoming the Chinese will be with answers is another unknown here. As more information is released, we’ll keep you updated.


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