Rare catastrophe for Chinese state-run airlines

Along with North America and Europe, China is one of the world’s top three air travel markets and has dramatically improved safety since the catastrophic crash of the 1990s and 2000s.

China has not reported a commercial flight crash with more than five casualties since 2010. The military wing of the ruling Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army, also suffered a fatal crash, but some details are available.

China Eastern Airlines Corp.

China’s airline industry

Carriers have suffered heavy financial losses due to the government’s “Zero Tolerance” anti-coronavirus strategy, which has barred most foreign visitors from China and temporarily suspended access to major cities. According to the Boeing Company, the number of passengers inside China surpassed the United States for the first time in 2020, partly because populous China was reintroduced for relatively faster domestic travel in late 2019 after the first report of a coronavirus case. Boeing forecasts 5.4% annual traffic growth and says China should be held responsible for one-sixth of the added airline capacity in the future.

China’s last big crash

An Embraer ERJ 190-100 operated by Henan Airlines with a total of 44 passengers and crew hit the ground from the runway on August 24, 2010 while landing in the northeastern city of Echun. Everyone on board died when the fuel caught fire. Investigators blamed an error on the pilot, who was landing at night and lost visibility.

China’s aircraft market

China is one of the most important markets for Boeing and its European rival Airbus Industries. With US and European demand flat, Chinese carriers want to sell.

The ruling Communist Party wants to compete with them by building their own jetliners and eventually exporting them.

The state-owned COMAC, or Commercial Aviation Corporation of China, has launched a short-range jetliner for 105 passengers, the ARJ21, and the larger but shorter-range C919 with up to 190 seats. The company said it was operating a long-haul, twin-isle plane, C929, for 290 passengers.

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