A Boeing 737-800 o a flight from Kunming to Guangzhou, departed its cruise level of 29,000ft in a steep dive, which ended near vertical before hitting the ground at high speed near Wuzhou. There were no survivors among the 9 Crew and 123 Passengers.
An investigation is ongoing and this involves the US NTSB and the Chinese CAAC as well as other specialist from the companies involved in certification of the aircraft, all in accordance with normal practice.
A piece of debris found 12km from the crash site has been discounted as a causal factor. The debris was a winglet, which could have detached during the descent due to the excessive forces of a descent with achieved around 31,000 feet per minute ( a normal descent rate would be 2,000 to 3,000 fpm at most) and would exceed the maximum permitted speed of the airframe.
China Eastern Airlines had three previous accidents/incidents, two of which are classified as fatalities. One in April 1993 when the crew lost control of the aircraft but landed at a diversionary airfield, two passengers dies from injuries sustained in the manoeuvres. Another on October that same year, when the aircraft landed long and overran the runway, resulting in two passenger fatalities.
The flight data recorder and voice recorder from this recent crash have been sent to the US for analysis.
16th January 2023
There is now speculation that the First Oficer on this flight deliberately crashed the aircraft, due to a dispute with his emplloyer as well as financial problems following the collapse of the Chinese property market. Leaked allegations suggest that the voice recorder and flight data recorder were analysed in the USA but that the Chinese authorities are not releasing the findings. At this stage it is only rumour but given that a security camera video clip showing the aircraft in a vertical dive; it does seem to be plausible as an explanation. It would be very unusual, even with loss of control, for an aircraft to dive so vertically. There were no debris found away from the crash site, thus ruling out structural failure prior to the dive.