Plane in China crashed almost vertically: How does this happen?

The accident of the China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 NG with 132 people on Monday (21) drew attention for the way in which the aircraft crashed. It was a nearly vertical dive towards the ground, with the plane’s belly turned slightly upwards.

Investigations are still ongoing. Sources heard by UOL point out that it is very rare for a plane like the 737 to stay in that position.


For Rui Gonçalves, a journalist specializing in aviation, planes are designed to be stable, but there are conditions that can make the aircraft face that situation.

According to Gonçalves, there are two conditions for a large plane to dive towards the ground with the belly slightly turned up:

  • Loss of lift on one of the wings
  • Any severe damage that causes the plane to lose control


The main condition for this type of fall is the stall (loss of lift) of one of the wings, says the journalist. In the case of the China Eastern flight, it appears that this would have happened with the right wing of the plane.

The aircraft would have lost the propulsion generated by the right engine, which would cause it to lose lift, sinking its nose towards the ground. However, this would only materialize if the crew did not take the necessary measures to prevent this from happening, as this is an emergency for which pilots are trained.

Even in deceleration situations, such as when the engines stop working, it is a common procedure to lower the plane to an altitude where it can perform better. This is even provided for in the aircraft manuals.

severe damage

Another problem that can make an aircraft dive towards the ground is severe damage to its structure, says Gonçalves. In this type of situation, it is necessary for the crew to completely lose control of the plane and no longer be able to fly it.

“I tend to believe that some other cause caused the maneuver that made the plane describe that downward trajectory at high speed. Something that caused the crew to lose control over the aircraft”, he says.

This type of situation is also extremely rare, with few records. Even in emergencies, a plane is capable of gliding for several kilometers, reaching to fly for hours even without one of the engines.

What needs to be answered about the flight in china?

The accident involving the China Eastern Airlines flight is still at an early stage of investigation, and it will take some time for questions surrounding the crash to be answered.

For Gonçalves, the loss of engine power is one of the main points that will have to be elucidated. “What investigators will have to answer is what caused the loss of engine thrust, what was reported by the crew to air traffic control and what factor caused the crew not to perform the procedures they were trained for,” he says.

About Abhishek Pratap

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