First on CBS: Chinese authorities may already be investigating a black box recorder of a crashed plane that killed 132 people


U.S. officials fear their Chinese counterparts could extract data from the flight data recorder of China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735 without National Transportation Safety Board officials present, CBS News learned.

The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration – their version of the Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB – announced this one of the salvaged black boxes believed to contain audio recordings from the flight deck was already en route to Beijing overnight for analysis.

Almost five days since the crash where no survivors were foundIn the US, the NTSB Go team is still working with the State Department to streamline travel to and from China without having to comply with strict regulations COVID-related quarantine requirements.

The NTSB already has a senior aviation security investigator, Dr. Sathya Silva, appointed to lead the Go Team, technical advisor to Boeing, which built the 737-800 model aircraft, CFM, which supplied the engines, and affiliated with the FAA.

The United Nations Convention on Aeronautical Standards states that the state in which an aircraft is designed and manufactured has the power to appoint a lead investigator who has the power to appoint technical advisers. Therefore, US experts should support Chinese officials in the country at every step.

While virtual communication is a possibility, it is not preferred because it also creates potential issues with secure communication and negates any chance of substantial in-person analysis, a source with knowledge of the process told CBS News.

Chinese officials also said human remains were found at the crash site as the search for the doomed plane’s second data recorder, which records vital flight information, is still ongoing. The cause of the flight’s near-vertical crash from 29,000 feet remains a mystery. 132 people on board died China’s worst air disaster in more than a decade.

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