There were 132 people on board -- 123 passengers and 9 crew -- and the plane went down in a mountainous area near the city of Wuzhou, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China. The jet was traveling from Kunming in Yunnan province to the manufacturing center of Guangzhou, according to FlightRadar24
Radar tracking shows the plane descended steeply on an almost vertical trajectory. Flight MU5735 was traveling at an altitude of 29,100 feet at 2:19 p.m. local time when it went into a steep decline, according to FlightRadar24 tracking data. The aircraft then fell at speed more than 25,000 feet in less than three minutes to an altitude of just 3,225 feet when tracking data ended.
An emergency telephone assistance line for family was set up and the carrier expressed deep condolences to passengers and crew members onboard.
China Eastern’s website, mobile app and some of its social media platforms were turned to black and white in a sign of mourning.
China Eastern said it will ground all of its Boeing 737-800 jets starting Tuesday. There are 4,502 Boeing 737-800 NGs in service globally, including 950 in the U.S., according to Cirium, an aviation data firm and consultancy.
China President Xi Jinping said the country should step up all rescue efforts after the crash and urged officials find a reason for the incident as soon as possible, the State TV reported.
The crash comes at a bad time for Boeing, which is preparing for the re-entry of its 737 Max into commercial service in the country, a lucrative aviation market. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that Boeing had flown a Max to its completion and delivery center in Zhoushan, China, for the first time since the model received recertification. The company’s shares were down as much as 8% in premarket trading in New York.
China was the first major aviation market to ground the Max three years ago after the second of two fatal crashes that killed 346 people in total, and one of the last to see its return. The market is so large that Boeing’s plan to further ramp up production depends on the resumption of deliveries to China.
The aircraft involved in Monday’s crash wasn’t a new-generation Boeing Max jet.