China Business

Plane Goes Down. Blame China?

China aviation

Is it just the lawyer in me — perhaps too rigorously trained to deal in facts — or am I justified in being troubled by this post over at the usually superb The China Game? Midler may very well be right (these sorts of things do happen) in his assessment, but it just seems way too early to start ascribing blame.

13 responses to “Plane Goes Down. Blame China?”

  1. What is to blame? Two major Chinese character flaws:
    1. Save money at all costs, even if it means suffering and death.
    2. Play cheap tricks on the unsuspecting to prove your mental superiority.

  2. Too early indeed though Chinese authorities have only themselves to blame for a lack of confidence in their quality control processes. Let’s hope the assessment proves irrefutably false.

  3. As a China blogger with a Seattle connection, you are right to get something involving Boeing and China on the radar screen. Having said that, note that I have not assigned blame. This is about raising questions and providing information that is publicly available but not widely disseminated.
    We know so far that fuel issue is the most likely reason for this crash. We also know that the aircraft was fueled in Beijing. Investigators are in the process of collecting fuel samples from flights out of China. Here’s a paragraph from Aviation Weekly:
    “Sources close to the investigation [say] British Airways engineers have been collecting fuel samples from every flight emanating from China. The sample collection, plus comments from the AAIB indicating the aircraft had “adequate” fuel remaining on board at the time of the crash, is believed to point toward suspicions of a heavier-than-fuel contaminant being present. Theories propounded by crew include the possible presence of water in the tanks that, having become frozen during the intense cold-soak period of the flight, partially melted and formed a slush that could have partially blocked the fuel lines.”
    I would place bets on fuel quality degradation before water, but am interested in any case to see what investigators report.

  4. I guess it’s news to some people that China does have a working airlines industry? That Chinese and foreigners etc. do fly in and out of China?
    Yeah, just blame everything on China. It’s so convenient. The big bad China. Boohooo!!!

  5. Paul Midler’s comment above is the first I’ve seen of any attempt to back up the suggestion that fuel quality may be to blame. As has been raised in the comment thread of Midler’s own blog: If fuel quality is an issue, how is it that China’s aviation sector is improving its safety record, to the point where it is 100% clean for the last year?
    I appreciate that Midler was not assigning blame, merely repeating a suspicion he had read elsewhere, but to me at this stage it just doesn’t make sense. Not yet.

  6. I have no idea how the investigations are progressing, but I know this one was flagged early as a potential cause. The experts quoted in the day or so after the crash thought it unlikely, though, as it would be weird that only one plane was affected by the problem if there was tampering/adulterating of the fuel.

  7. You could view what happened in the toy sector last year and say it had nothing to do with any crisis in tires, pet food, toothpaste, or powdered milk. In fact, they were all related. Each case involved someone making a conscious decision to dangerously degrade a product for the sake of profit. Interest in the Boeing 777 crash has to do with a concern for quality issues in China, in general.
    The crash may in the end have nothing to do with China, but people at British Airways are probably turning that one question on its head: The airline has never had a crash like this on flights originating from Islamabad, Kiev, or Helsinki. Anyway, no need to get abstract. Investigators suspect fuel, and the fuel came from China. Officials in Beijing must be laying brick in their pants, and I wonder about the recent announcement to build 97 new airports across China in the next twelve years. Ambitious stuff.

  8. Aside from bad fuel or spiked fuel, simply poor seals could have allowed water to get into the tank, then pumped into the airplane. Even if the seal was good, if the hatch was not properly closed for a long enough period of time, this could happen. Happens to cars.

  9. While it is indeed all speculation… two engines failing at the same time would seem very odd. Don’t they have separate fuel injection and a multitude of control systems?
    My money is on a flock of birds. Birds in engines on approach could be nasty.

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