A China Eastern Airlines Corp. Boeing Co. 737-800NG plane carrying 132 people crashed in China’s southwestern province of Guangxi.
According to FlightRadar24, China Eastern flight MU5735 was traveling from Kunming to Guangzhou, and radar tracking shows the aircraft descending steeply.
Eyewitness videos posted to social media showed a forest fire on a mountainside at what was purported to be the crash site. China Central Television said the blaze that was triggered by the crash has now been put out.
China Eastern’s website, mobile app and some of its social media platforms were turned to black and white in a sign of mourning.
Shares of Boeing fell 6.8% to $179.97 in pre-market U.S. trading. Stock in Shanghai-based China Eastern fell as much as 6.4% in late trading in Hong Kong.
The crash was confirmed by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, which said there were 123 passengers and nine crew members on board.
China Eastern lost contact with the aircraft over the city of Wuzhou, CAAC said. The regulator said it initiated an emergency response and has dispatched a working group to the scene.
Representatives for China Eastern and Boeing weren’t immediately available for comment.
The China Eastern crash comes at a bad time for Boeing, which is preparing for the re-entry of its 737 Max into commercial service in the country, a lucrative aviation market. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that Boeing had flown a Max to its completion and delivery center in Zhoushan, China, for the first time since the model received recertification.
China was the first major aviation market to ground the Max three years ago after the second of two fatal crashes that killed 346 people in total, and one of the last to see its return. The market is so large that Boeing’s plan to further ramp up production depends on the resumption of deliveries to China.
The aircraft involved in Monday’s crash wasn’t a new-generation Boeing Max jet.
The 737-800 NG, or Next Generation, is part of the Boeing single-aisle family which preceded the 737 Max. As of 2018, the NG had one of the best safety records among jetliners, with just eight fatal accidents out of more than 7,000 sold, according to data compiled by Boeing at the time.
According to Aviation Safety Network’s website, this is the first fatal accident involving a 737-800 jet since Jan. 8, 2020. The China Eastern jet involved was six years old, according to FlightRadar.
The last major incident at China Eastern was in June 2013 when an Embraer SA jet skidded off the runway while landing in Shanghai airport, according to Aviation Safety Network.
The most recent fatal commercial accident in China meanwhile prior to Monday’s was in 2010, involving a Henan Airlines Co. Embraer jet, which killed 44 of the 96 people onboard.
The last fatal crash involving China Eastern was in 2004, when an airliner bound for Shanghai crashed in Inner Mongolia, killing 53 people on board and two people on the ground. That was the worst aviation accident in China in 30 months at the time.
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