Boeing jets under 'surveillance' after China crash

By Annabelle Liang
Business reporter

The China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800.Image source,
Image caption,
China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane

India's aviation regulator has placed the country's fleet of Boeing 737 planes under "enhanced surveillance" after a jet crashed in China.

It said it has sent out teams "to monitor flight procedures, air worthiness and operations".

On Monday, a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed in southern China with 132 people onboard.

Rescue teams are working at the site but it is not yet known what caused the incident.

The flight was travelling from Kunming to Guangzhou when it plunged to the ground and caught fire. China Eastern Airlines has grounded all its 737-800s.

"Flight safety is serious business and we are closely studying the situation," said Arun Kumar, chief of India's Directorate General of Civil Association.

"In the interim, we are focusing on enhanced surveillance of our 737 fleet." India's SpiceJet, Vistara and Air India Express all have Boeing 737 aircraft in their fleets.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it had "no information at this time that would warrant any safety actions with respect to the 737-800 in Europe".

"As with all with all safety investigations, we are in contact with the state of design authority of the aircraft," a spokesperson told the BBC. "We will be monitoring findings from the investigation closely and take any safety actions required."

The BBC has approached regulators in the US and China for comment.

US plane-maker Boeing said it was assisting investigations in China and communicating with the US National Transportation Safety Board.

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Boeing's chief executive David Calhoun said: "We have been in close communication with our customer and regulatory authorities since the accident, and have offered the full support of our technical experts to the investigation led by the Civil Aviation Administration of China."

He added that the company would do "everything we can to support our customer and the accident investigation during this difficult time, guided by our commitment to safety, transparency, and integrity at every step".

There are 4,208 Boeing 737-800 passenger planes in service, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium, with over a quarter of them based in China.

Boeing 737-800s, which were first produced in the late 1990s, have a strong safety record. The plane involved in Monday's incident was less than seven years old.

Investigators are still determining the reason for the crash in a wooded area of the Guangxi hills and will be searching for the plane's "black box" flight recorders for information.

Boeing has been attempting to recover from two fatal crashes involving its 737 MAX aircraft which claimed the lives of 346 passengers and crew.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Paramilitary police search the site of the China Eastern Airlines crash

Cai von Rumohr, an analyst at investment bank Cowen, said: "Given Boeing's problems with the 737 MAX, there is some chance that consumers may not want to fly on a 737 until the cause of the China Eastern crash is determined not to be a design or manufacturing issue.

"Hence, isolating the cause of the crash will be critical."

Boeing's share price fell by 3.5% in New York on Monday.

China Eastern Airlines has set up a hotline for people seeking information about those on board. It expressed "its deep condolences for the passengers and crew members who died". The company's share price fell by more than 6% in Shanghai on Tuesday.

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