China Northern Airlines Flight 6136
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|Date||May 7, 2002|
|Site||Bohai Bay, near Dalian, China|
|Aircraft type||McDonnell Douglas MD-82|
|Operator||China Northern Airlines|
|Flight origin||Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing, People's Republic of China|
|Destination||Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport, Dalian, People's Republic of China|
China Northern Airlines Flight 6136 (CBF6136/CJ6136) was a domestic passenger flight from Beijing Capital International Airport, Beijing to Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport, in Dalian, Liaoning province, China. On May 7, 2002 the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 operating the flight crashed into the bay near Dalian shortly after the pilot reported "fire on board", killing all 103 passengers and 9 crew members. It was the second air disaster involving PRC aircraft in less than a month, after the Air China Flight 129 disaster on April 15. The crash occurred hours after the crash of an EgyptAir Boeing 737 in Tunis that claimed 14 lives. The cause of the fire was later determined to be arson.
The aircraft involved was a McDonnell Douglas MD-82 with the registration B-2138 and manufacturer's serial number 49522. It had been built in 1991 and had accumulated about 27,000 hours' flight time in service. According to senior official of the General Administration of the Civil Aviation of China, Yang Yuanyuan, the aircraft had just undergone routine maintenance check and had a perfect maintenance record.
The jetliner left its boarding gate at Beijing Capital International Airport at 20:22 and took off at 20:37 local time (12:37 UTC) from Runway 36R. At 21:20, as the aircraft neared Dalian, the captain reported "fire in cabin" and "the tail is on fire" to Dalian tower and requested an emergency landing. At 21:24 the aircraft disappeared from the radar screen and lost contact with air traffic control. It was due to arrive in Dalian at 21:40. The aircraft crashed in the water at a 90 degree bank angle and 30 degree nose down pitch. Witnesses stated that the aircraft made several circles before suddenly plunging into the sea with its light out.
Emergency services were immediately deployed shortly after the crash. Chinese Navy forces stationed in Dalian deployed four naval ship into the crash site. More than 30 tug boats joined the search and rescue mission. Rescuers immediately recovered 60 bodies and debris from the crash site, including a badly burned food cart. President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji ordered aviation, police and transport agencies and the Chinese military to fully organize and support the rescue efforts.
On May 8, Chinese search and rescue personnel detected signals from the flight recorders. Dalian authorities sent 51 divers to 17 different locations to find the flight recorders of the plane. On 10 May, weak signals were detected by salvage workers. They also recovered a 15-meter section of the plane from the sea. On May 14, seven days after the disaster, the two flight recorders were retrieved from the seabed by searchers.
Passengers and crews
Of the 103 passengers, 96 were from China (including one from Hong Kong); three were Japanese; and the remaining four were from France, India, Singapore and South Korea. 100 were adults and 3 were children. Most of the passengers were residents of Dalian.
The pilot of the flight was Captain Wang Yongxiang (Chinese: 王永祥, pinyin: Wáng Yǒngxiáng). He was born in 1967 with a total flying hours of more than 11,000 hours. The second in command was Chen Xiuming (Chinese: 陈旭明, pinyin: Chén Xùmíng). He was born in 1973 with a total flying hours of 3,300 hours. The Flight Engineer was Pan Mintsi (Chinese: 潘明奇, Pinyin: Pān Míngqí), with a total flying hours of 4,980 hours.
Chinese Government immediately ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash. Special investigation panel sent by the central government laer arrived in Dalian. The panel was consisted of vice secretary-general of the State Council Long Quan; Heads of the Ministry of Communications, the General Administration of Civil Aviation, and the Ministry of Public Security.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, in-flight fire was suspected as the main cause of the crash. This was proved by the crew's emergency call to ATC about the presence of fire on board the plane. Multiple witnesses also supported this theory. The possibility of an in-flight fire became higher after rescuers retrieved a badly burnt food cart on the crash site.
Chinese provincial papers stated that a short-circuit might have caused the fire.
Results of the accident investigation were published by the Xinhua News Agency on December 8, 2002. A passenger named Zhang Pilin (张丕林) apparently set fire to the passenger cabin with gasoline, causing the loss of control and crash. Zhang had purchased seven air insurance policies worth a total of 1,400,000 renminbi (about 170,000 USD) prior to boarding the flight.
The investigation of the wreckage showed a quantity of gasoline near Zhang's seat, and that most passengers, including Zhang, died of carbon monoxide inhalation. The engines, cabin floor, and other critical parts showed no signs of burning or explosion.
Further investigation showed that Zhang had flown from Dalian to Beijing and returned to Dalian on Flight 6136 the same day. According to security camera recordings, he had spent several hours smoking cigarettes in the waiting hall of Beijing airport. Zhang purchased two insurance policies before leaving Dalian and purchased the remaining five in Beijing. Some water bottles filled with gasoline were also found in Zhang's apartment.
Recent reports suggested that the crash was caused by a foul play, but not by Zhang Philin. Media reports stated that Zhang Pilin was not the perpetrator, but instead, he was a scapegoat. According to multiple reports, the crash was orchestrated by the mayor of Dalian city, Bo Xilai, to assassinate someone who was on board Flight 6136 at the time of the accident.
The theory surfaced when Bo Xilai was in trial for his corruption case. The theory was made by then-jailed journalist Jiang.
Most of the passengers and crews remains were sent for DNA tests before being cremated. The remains of Zhang Pilin was the only one who was stored by officials. The families of Zhang Philin was asked to temporarily move to a hotel and was asked to wait for the final results. The family was finally handed an official statement, declaring that Zhang had brought bottles of gasoline onboard and set the blaze.
The family later denied this and demanded an investigation. Their request was denied by the government. Though the Chinese media reported that Zhang set fire on the plane on purpose in order to receive his compensation payment from 7 life insurances, claiming that he was depressed as he suffered liver cancer, Zhang's family denied the theory. His family claimed that after graduating with a Master of Science in Physics, Zhang had a satisfying job and did quite well with his new company. His wife also denied the allegation on Zhang, stating that he was perfectly healthy and loved his family. spending time with their son. He had started to act very busy all of a sudden in the weeks before the accident. He did not inform her of his trip to Beijing until he was about to return.
Among the dead was Li Yanfeng, a special assistant to the human resources chief in China’s Ministry of State Security. Her husband was Han Xiaoguang, the owner of Golden Shine International Hotel in Dalian. Han was the ally of the biggest political enemy of Bo Xilai, Yu Xuexiang. In 2001, Bo ordered authorities to arrest Yu Xuexiang. At the time of the crash, Han was in prison and her wife Li, who was on board the flight, was bringing letters from high-ranking officials in Beijing in an effort to release her husband from prison. Bo Xilai thought that she knew too much.
Jiang later interviewed insiders. They state that Zhang was a secret policeman and had close ties with Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai. Zhang served as the fall guy for the crime.
Jiang later added that details of the accident had been covered by Bo Xilai. He claimed that the plane's black box were never recovered. The theory which claimed that Bo Xilai assassinated Li was later proved by the fact that the profile of Li Yanfeng had been essentially left blank. Her occupation and her other information were deliberately left blank.
State-run news agency Xinhua later blamed Zhang Philin as the perpetrator of the crash, according to the theory.
- 2002 in aviation
- Aviation safety
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- List of accidents and incidents involving commercial aircraft
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