Exclusive: US investigators tell CAAC they did not release China Eastern MU5735 crash probe info to media
WSJ report blasted as unprofessional, interference with ongoing investigations
Published: May 18, 2022 12:01 PM Updated: May 19, 2022 01:45 AM


The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) told the Global Times exclusively on Wednesday that it has confirmed with personnel of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) who participated in the investigation of the crash of China Eastern Airlines' flight MU5735 in March that they did not release any information about the probe, refuting earlier foreign media reports about the cause of the deadly crash.

The NTSB itself also told the Global Times on Wednesday that it has assisted the CAAC with the investigation, but it does not comment on investigations led by other authorities, and all information related to the investigation will be released by the CAAC.

Following these official responses, Chinese civil aviation industry analysts blasted the US media reports as being unprofessional and causing unnecessary interference with the ongoing investigation. Such unsubstantiated reports amount to vicious smearing against China, the analysts noted.  

The swift response from both the CAAC and the NTSB came shortly after the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing "people familiar with US officials' preliminary assessment of what led to the accident," that the plane's "black box points to an intentional nosedive."

Regarding the recent US media report about the cause of the incident, after confirmation with personnel of the NTSB who participated in the investigation, the CAAC told the Global Times that the NTSB "made it clear that it did not release any information related to the investigation to any media." 

They are cooperating with the CAAC in strict accordance with the framework requirements of Annex 13 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, and will continue to provide professional technical support to help identify the cause of the accident as needed, the CAAC added. 

The CAAC said that the investigation department invited the NTSB from the US as the investigator from the country where the aircraft was designed and manufactured, and the move was made according to the relevant requirements of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

With regard to the progress of the investigation, the CAAC said that the aircraft flight accident investigation department is carrying out in-depth wreck identification, classification and inspection, flight data analysis, experimental verification and other related work, according to the investigation procedures. 

In response to a question on the China Eastern MU5735 crash probe following US media reports, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the CAAC has stated it will continue to keep in close contact with all parties involved in the probe and release information promptly and accurately.

"The speculation of the foreign media is really out of line with common sense," Qiao Shanxun, secretary general of the Expert Committee of the Henan Aviation Industry Association, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Qiao cited the rules of the International Civil Aviation Convention, saying that states shall not circulate, publish or give access to a draft report or any part thereof, or any documents obtained during an investigation of an accident or incident, without the express consent of the state that conducted the investigation, unless such reports or documents have already been published or released by that latter state.

"This kind of behavior by relevant parties in the US, whether intentional or unintentional, violates the convention, as only the CAAC has the right to publish any relevant information on the investigation result," he said.  "Such reporting is unnecessary interference with the accident's investigation."

The CAAC told the Global Times that it will continue to maintain close communication with all parties involved in the investigation, carry out the accident investigation in a scientific, rigorous and orderly manner and disclose the progress of the investigation promptly and accurately in accordance with the Convention on International Civil Aviation and the relevant requirements of government information disclosure.

However, although the investigation is still underway, some foreign media outlets, particularly those from the US, have been constantly speculating on the cause and other details of the incident, in an apparent vicious smear campaign against China, analysts noted.

In addition, earlier in April, online speculations swirled that the co-pilot "might be responsible" for the crash, claiming the black box data had been disclosed, with some believing that the CAAC will require flight crew to undergo mental health monitoring.

The CAAC refuted rumors surrounding the crash, saying the accident was still under investigation, and no conclusions had been drawn on the cause and nature of the accident yet.

On April 20, China's civil aviation regulator released a preliminary report on the crash, saying that the investigation so far found "no abnormality" in aircraft maintenance or airline personnel.  

The CAAC also said that the qualifications of the crew members and maintenance personnel on duty met the requirements, the plane's airworthiness certificate was valid, and there were no abnormalities in navigation and surveillance equipment along the route or dangerous weather conditions. 

The CAAC's preliminary report said the two recorders on the plane were severely damaged due to the impact, and the data restoration and analysis work is still in progress. The technical investigation team will continue to carry out in-depth investigations of the accident cause. 

The unsubstantiated US media reports come as US-based plane maker Boeing, which manufactured the China Eastern plane, is on shaky ground in China and around the world due to two crashes of its Boeing 737 MAX.   

Before the crash of the China Eastern Airlines plane, the biggest problem facing Boeing came from the 737 MAX, Boeing had only delivered 157 aircraft in 2020 (806 in 2018 and 380 in 2019), making its output drop to the lowest level in nearly 50 years, while facing head-to-head competition from Europe's Airbus, according to

Bloomberg reported that Boeing Co's biggest airline customer in China has removed more than 100 of the US manufacturer's 737 MAX jets from its near-term fleet plans, citing uncertainty over deliveries.

China Southern Airlines Chairman Ma Xulun said at an investor briefing last week that Boeing's updated best-selling aircraft would be excluded from fleet deliveries through 2024. The carrier expects to take delivery of 78 aircraft in total over the period, down from 181 in a previous forecast in March.

China is Boeing's second-largest market after the US. China currently owns 15 percent of the world's civilian aircraft, a figured expected to reach 18 percent by 2037, the company wrote on its website. Over the next 20 years, China will need 7,690 new aircraft with a total value of $1.2 trillion, making it the only trillion-dollar civilian aircraft market in the world.

Nevertheless, considering the cause of the air crash has not yet been clearly determined, China Eastern Airlines on April 17 conducted a flight with a Boeing 737-800 airplane after nearly one month's grounding, and it gradually resumed use of the aircraft.