Following a recent string of tragic events, aviation safety has been thrust into the spotlight. With so many domestic airlines in operation in China today, it can be difficult to track the safety record of each and every one. Flight delays, bad service, lack of English skills and unsavoury food are commonly cited problems with Chinese airlines, but how do they fare in terms of safety? Let’s examine five of the deadliest plane crashes in China’s aviation history.
1) August 24 2010: Henan Airlines Flight 8387
Yichun à Harbin
Flight 8387 was on its way to Yichun Lindu Airport from Harbin Taiping International Airport, both located in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province, when the airplane crashed on approach. Investigations into the crash concluded that fog was the deciding factor. Early on in the flight, visibility was already an issue, and upon landing, when the crew were not able to see the runway, they did not follow missed approach protocol and ascend. Instead, the aircraft hit the ground, breaking in two, proving difficult for emergency protocol to be carried out. The accident cost 44 lives, including 43 Mainlanders and one Taiwanese citizen.
2) May 7 2002: China Northern Airlines Flight 6136
Beijing à Dalian
When flight 6138 was nearing its destination of Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport after taking off from Beijing Capital International Airport when it crashed into the bay near Dalian. Just prior to the crash, the pilot reported a fire on board, which led to the death of all 103 passengers and nine crew members. After an intensive investigation, it became clear that a passenger, Zhang Pilin, set fire to the passenger cabin with gasoline, and thus caused the crash. There is even further evidence to back his actions up, as Zhang reportedly purchased seven air insurance policies before departing on the flight.
However, there is also a lot of mystery surrounding the motive as there are rumors that Zhang was terminally ill, and that he was already in huge debt. On top of that, there were some sources on board who could attest to Bo Xilai’s corruption case. No further investigation was conducted on this matter however.
3) April 15 2002: Air China Flight 129
Beijing à Busan
Flight 129 departed from Beijing Capital International Airport and was bound for Gimhae International Airport in South Korea’s Busan, but the Boeing 767-200ER crashed into a hill near Busan, killing 129 of the 166 people on the plane. The ensuing investigation determined that there was confusion as a result of the weather. During the landing, pilots lost sight of the runway and did not react and ascend again, as is protocol. Instead, they continued their descent and collided into a mountain.
Later research also pointed fingers towards the staff at the airport, as those in charge of air traffic control were unaware of weather conditions, did not provide well-lit runways, and guided the aircraft to the wrong height.
4) June 6 1994: China Northwest Airlines Flight 2303
Xi’an à Guangzhou
Shortly after taking off from Xi’an, Guangzhou-bound flight 2303 ran into trouble and crashed into a field 18 miles southeast of the airport. The crash cost 146 passengers and 14 crew their lives, and is still the most deadly plane crash to occur in Mainland China. Following investigation, the crash was allegedly caused by autopilot malfunction, combined with flawed maintenance that had occurred at a non-approved maintenance facility. This facility had connected the autopilot yaw-channel to the bank control, and the bank-channel to the yaw controls. These mistakes caused violent shaking of the aircraft, which eventually caused the crash.
5) January 18 1988: China Southwest Airlines Flight 4146
Beijing à Chongqing
All 108 passengers on board Flight 4146 from Beijing Capital International Airport to Chongqing Airport, lost their lives when the aircraft caught fire. It was later determined that the cause of the fire was an oil leak. The leak caused the engine to shut down and its propeller feathered due to severe vibrations. The generator fitted to the engine then overheated and burnt the oil supplying tube – when this tube burst the leaking oil caught fire.
If you’re squeamish about flying, we’ve got comforting and not-so-comforting news. The title of deadliest crash involving one single plane goes to a non-Chinese airline: Japan Airlines. On August 12, 1985 Flight 123 crashed into mountains in central Japan shortly after taking off from Tokyo, killing 520 people. The less comforting news is that according to flightfox.com, the deadliest airline in the world goes to China Airlines. This ranking was determined by considering the total number of hull losses (8) and fatalities (755) in the last thirty years.
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Keywords: Chinese airlines deadliest plane crashes in China plane crashes in China
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