Searchers in China find wing, engine parts after plane crash

WUZHOU, China — Hundreds of people in rain gear and rubber boots searched muddy, forested hills in southern China on Thursday for the second flight recorder from a jetliner that crashed with 132 people aboard.

No survivors have been found since the China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 dived into a mountainous area Monday, but authorities say they still are looking.

Some human remains and engine parts were found, as well as items from the cockpit and some belongings to passengers, officials said. State television showed searchers on a slope trying to remove a section of white wings bearing the red-and blue logo.

The cockpit voice recorder was believed to have been one of the two black recorders found on Wednesday. Investigators stated that although the outer casing of the recorder was broken, it still contained an orange cylinder.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said talks were ongoing with China over dispatching an expert to participate in the investigation, as is standard when the planes involved are from American manufacturers. China travel restrictions are currently in place due to visa and COVID requirements. Peter Knudson, a spokesperson for the NTSB said that they are currently working with the Department of State in order to resolve these issues with China before travel can be made.

China Eastern, one of China’s four major airlines, said Thursday the Shanghai-based carrier and its subsidiaries have grounded a total of 223 Boeing 737-800 aircraft while they investigate possible safety hazards.

China Eastern earlier said the grounding of planes was a precaution, not a sign there was anything wrong. According to the airline, the plane was safe and that its crew were well-trained and experienced.

The plane crashed while flying from Kunming (the capital of Yunnan Province in China’s mountainous Southwest) to Guangzhou (a large city and major export hub in the Southeast). According to authorities, there weren’t any foreign passengers on board.

Investigators have said it is too early to discuss possible causes. Officials have stated that an air traffic controller attempted to reach the pilots multiple times following the sudden drop in altitude, but was unsuccessful.

The government has yet to release the pilots’ names, but news reports identified the captain as Yang Hongda. The co-pilot, according to news reports, was Zhang Zheng, a veteran with 32,000 hours of flying time in a 30-year career. A former colleague of Zhang, cited in The Paper’s online news outlet, said that he mentored young pilots and commanded the academy’s basketball team. According to reports, Ni Gongtao was a second copilot who flew with them in order to gain more experience.

On Thursday, pumping was used to drain the pit in the centre of the wreckage site after light rain stopped work on the second day.

“The rainstorm made the job harder,” said Zheng Xi, fire chief of the Guangxi region, at a news conference. Zheng stated that the muddy roads made it difficult to find their way through, so some people walked up to the spot carrying equipment and tools.

More searchers took part than , according to Huang Shangwu (a deputy fire chief).

” “The black box was discovered by water pumps yesterday,” Huang said to reporters near the site.

The Boeing 737-800 was cruising at 29,000 feet (8,800 meters) when it crashed, starting a fire that could be seen in NASA satellite images. The government sealed off the area surrounding the accident site to keep information from spreading.

Foreign media were escorted into the zone for the first time Thursday. The highway was lined with police cars and other vehicles. The command center was reached by journalists who were taken down narrow roads that had been clogged with red-brown dirt mud. Security officials used umbrellas to stop journalists filming in their cars from a woman who was crying as they drove past her.

Searchers used metal detectors, hand tools and drones to search the steep, forested slopes. The searchers have found wallets, bank cards, and remains of human beings. The “black boxes”, usually orange-painted, can help to locate the cause of the crash.

Cockpit voice recorders can capture voices, audio alerts and background sounds from the engine or switches being moved. Flight data recorders store information such as speed, altitude, direction and pilot actions.

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Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang in Wuzhou, China; researchers Yu Bing in Beijing and Chen Si in Shanghai; and news assistant Caroline Chen in Beijing contributed.

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