US government sources have told the Wall Street Journal that the crash of a Boeing 737-800 operated by China Eastern Airlines was intentional.

The sources indicate that data from the crashed aircraft’s flight data recorder shows that control inputs pushed the aircraft (B-1791/MSN41474) into a dive, resulting in the death of 123 passengers and nine crew when flight MU5735 crashed near Wuzhou in Guangxi province in central China on 21 March. 

China Eastern FDR cr CCTV

Source: CCTV

The China Eastern 737-800’s flight data recorder

The aircraft was operating a service on the Kunming-Guangzhou route before suddenly plunging from 29,000ft. No distress call was received. 

“The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit,” says an anonymous source quoted by the newspaper.

Moreover, the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC), which is leading the probe with US assistance, has yet to issue any safety directives regarding any issues with the 737-800. China Eastern has also returned the type to service after a one-month grounding. 

Given that the aircraft was produced by an American company, the National Transport Safety Board is involved in the investigation. Both the cockpit voice and flight data recorders were sent to the US after their recovery. 

In April, the CAAC issued a brief statement about the investigation, stating little more than that work to recover and analyse data from the recorders was underway, and that the devices had suffered severe damage.

CAAC has yet to issue a response to the Wall Street Journal report.

The report suggests that US officials believe one of the aircraft’s pilots could have caused the disaster, but are also considering the possibility that somebody else access the cockpit and caused the crash.