China Eastern Airlines has resumed service with Boeing 737-800s roughly a month after Flight MU5735 crashed on March 21 while en route from Kunming to Guangzhou, killing all 132 people on board. The airline grounded its fleet of 108 of the narrowbodies immediately following the crash in a mountainous area in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
According to flight tracking site FlightRadar24, China Southern returned to service the first 737-800, registration B-207L, on Sunday with a flight from Kunming to Chengdu.
Along with inspections of China Southern’s 737-800s, the crash prompted a broader review across the Chinese aviation industry under orders from President Xi Jinping and central government leaders. The inspection aimed to further strengthen awareness of what the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) called “bottom lines” and “to troubleshoot safety hazards in the civil aviation field to guarantee higher-level safety of aviation operations and people’s lives.”
The inspection covered regional air traffic management bureaus, airlines, service provider companies, airport companies, and flight training institutions and focuses on safety awareness, the building of professional teams, implementation of rules and standards, safety management chains, safety support capabilities, and fulfillment of safety responsibilities.
Chinese authorities continue to investigate the crash with the help of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which assisted with the download of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders in Beijing. The CAAC said it planned to submit a preliminary report to ICAO within 30 days of the accident.
The Boeing 737-800 involved in the crash departed Kunming in southwestern China for a scheduled flight to Guangzhou but lost contact over the city of Wuzhou in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Surveillance footage showed the jet in a nearly direct nosedive into terrain. According to data from flight tracking site FlightRadar24, MU5735 began to quickly lose altitude while cruising at 29,100 feet and descended to about 9,000 feet in just over two minutes. FlightRadar24’s last altitude indication shows the airplane at 3,225 feet.