China Eastern CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) Is In The US!

By Spyros Georgilidakis | April 3, 2022

The damaged CVR of the China Eastern Boeing 737 that crashed on the 21st of March is in Washington DC, as the NTSB assists in its download.

China Eastern CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) Is In The US!
Photo: Kelvin Yu

We previously saw how this tragic crash claimed the lives of all 132 people on board. The aircraft was at cruise altitude, but very close to its top of descent. It appears that it got into a dive, that it briefly got out of. But it subsequently continued, impacting a rural area near a mine. The investigation is still in its early stages, but it seems that most aircraft debris is in two different sites. These sites are very close to each other, but investigators found some debris many miles further away.

Investigators found the China Eastern 737’s CVR (cockpit voice recorder) close to the main crash site. The aircraft’s high-speed impact had damaged the unit externally. But initially, investigators announced that its storage unit was intact. However, it later emerged that the unit’s memory chip had suffered damage. The manufacturer of the device is Honeywell. In cases of such damage, Honeywell recommends that investigators send the unit to them.

China Eastern CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) Is In The US!
The FDR (second black box) soon after retrieval. Photo: 中国新闻网, CC BY 3.0


Downloading The China Eastern CVR

This is not an unusual situation. From the outset, the Chinese government seemed keen to resolve the mystery of this crash quickly. So the latest news is that the China Eastern flight’s CVR is now in the NTSB’s lab in Washington DC. At this time, it is not clear if the FDR (flight data recorder) will make the same journey. Investigators found this device days later, under 1.5 metres of mud. It, too, was intact, but with memory damage.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is still in charge of the investigation. But under ICAO rules, other stakeholders have the right to participate in the investigation. They include the country where the aircraft was manufactured and where the airline is based – if it crashed elsewhere. So in this case, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is participating, along with representatives from Boeing and the FAA.

The accident aircraft. Photo: Alec Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0

In addition to their lab processing the CVR, the NTSB is travelling to the site of the China Eastern crash. And it now seems that they will be able to join the investigation immediately on arrival. Earlier, it seemed likely that NTSB and any FAA and Boeing personnel would need to quarantine. China is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with new lockdowns.

But it now seems that Chinese officials will follow similar protocols to those athletes followed in the Beijing Olympics. NTSB and other US personnel will join the investigation but have limited interactions with anyone beyond it. The NTSB team travelling to China includes seven members.


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