Flight data suggests someone in the cockpit crashed a China Eastern jet deliberately earlier this year. People familiar with U.S. officials’ preliminary accident assessment just shared this latest news with the Wall Street Journal.

On March 21, while en route from Kunming to Guangzhou, China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735 suddenly pitched into a near-vertical descent, plunging into a hillside at extreme speed in Guangxi province. No one among 132 people on board survived after the Boeing 737-800 crashed.

This is the worst air accident for China in almost three decades.

According to people familiar with the U.S.’ preliminary assessment of the accident, the black box data indicates that some impact to the control pushed the plane into the fatal dive.

A person who knows the preliminary assessment said, [quote] “The plane did what it was told to do by someone in the cockpit.” [end-quote]

The report concludes after analyzing information from the plane’s damaged flight data recorder—one of its two black boxes. The other one is the cockpit voice recorder.

Putting support to the U.S.’s assessment, this person added that China had not signaled any mechanical or flight-control issues with the plane.

Besides, this jet model – Boeing 737-800 – maintains one of the best safety records in commercial flying among the family of Boeing aircraft.

As a result, based on the information gathered so far in the probe, U.S. officials are shifting attention to the pilots’ actions. The people familiar with the matter said someone else on the plane could have broken into the cockpit and seized control at the last moment.

Before, in a statement to The Wall Street Journal, China Eastern Airlines repeated the Chinese official’s claims that there were no problems with all three pilots. Their health and family conditions were good, and their financial status was stable.

When asked, China Eastern Airlines also denied a cockpit intrusion theory. The airline cited information from Chinese authorities that said no emergency code had been detected from the plane before the crash.

However, according to a preliminary investigative report about the crash by China, air-traffic controllers noticed the plane nose-diving at high speed at its last moment. It tried to contact the plane but got no response.

Meanwhile, The Civil Aviation Administration of China, the country’s air-safety regulator, didn’t reply to requests for comments, either by fax or by calling.

An accident probe could take a year or more before understanding why the plane crashed.

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