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The China Eastern Airlines jet that crashed on Monday was travelling at close to the speed of sound in the moments before it slammed into a hillside, according to a review of flight-tracking data.
Such an impact may complicate the task for investigators because it can obliterate evidence and, in rare cases, damage a plane’s data and voice recorders that are designed to withstand most crashes.
Debris at the crash site in the Guangxi region on Tuesday, March 22. Credit:AP
The Boeing 737-800 was knifing through the air at more than 640 miles (966 kilometres) per hour, and at times may have exceeded 700 mph, according to data from Flightradar24, a website that tracks planes.
“The preliminary data indicates it was near the speed of sound,” said John Hansman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronautics and aeronautics professor who reviewed Bloomberg’s calculation of the jet’s speed. “It was coming down steep.”
Sound travels at 761 mph at sea level but slows with altitude as air temperature goes down and is about 663 mph at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters).
Flight 5735 was flying to Guangzhou in southeastern China from Kunming with 132 people on board at an altitude of about 29,000 feet when it began a sudden descent, according to data transmitted by the plane and captured by Flightradar24. The jetliner was cruising at about 595 mph before the dive.
The speed data is consistent with videos appearing to show the jet diving at a steep angle in the moments before impact and indicates it hit the ground with huge force.
“It was an exceedingly high-energy crash,” said Bob Mann, president of RW Mann & Co consultancy, who did not participate in the speed analysis. “It looks like it literally evaporated into a crater. Do the flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder or quick access recorder – do any survive? I just don’t know the answer.”
Modern black-box recorders, which store data on computer chips, have a good record of survival in high-velocity crashes, said James Cash, who formerly served as the US National Transportation Safety Board’s chief technical adviser for recorders.
“The hard part is going to be finding it,” Cash said.
The circuit boards storing the data often break loose from the recorder’s protective exterior. But data can usually be extracted even if they’re damaged, he said.
“It’s probably embedded in the ground somewhere. But I would suspect it would be OK.”
Zhu Tao, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, yesterday said that the recorders had not yet been recovered. Searchers won’t be aided by a beacon or “ping” from the devices because such pings are only activated underwater.
A senior United States defence official says Russian ground forces have largely stalled outside of Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv.
However, in the country’s south, Russian ships have spent the last 24 hours shelling the already devastated port city of Mariupol from offshore.
Civilians making the dangerous escape from Mariupol have described fleeing through street gun battles and past unburied corpses as Russian forces try to pound the city into submission. One woman who made it out said planes flew overhead “and dropped bombs everywhere”.
Here are some key things to know about the war.
Shelling destroyed a shopping centre in a densely populated part of Kyiv this week.Credit:AP
Kyiv is believed to be Moscow’s primary military objective.
After a fierce battle, Ukrainian troops regained control of the suburb of Makariv on Tuesday (European time), allowing Ukrainian forces to retake a key highway to the west and block Russian troops from surrounding the capital from the northwest, Ukraine’s defence ministry said.
But the ministry said Russian forces were able to partially take northwest suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin, some of which had been under attack for weeks.
The Russian assault has turned living in Mariupol into a fight for survival.
Electricity, water and food supplies have been cut off, as well as communication with the outside world. It’s unclear how many remain in the city with a pre-war population of 430,000. About a quarter are believed to have fled early in the war and tens of thousands more have escaped over the past week by way of humanitarian corridors.
Other attempts to leave have been thwarted by Russian efforts to pound Mariupol into submission. On that, Moscow has not succeeded, Britain’s defence ministry says. But Russia now controls the land corridor from Crimea, the peninsula it annexed in 2014, and is blocking Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Azov.
Those who have made it out of Mariupol have described a devastated landscape.
“There are no buildings there anymore,” said 77-year-old Maria Fiodorova, who fled to Poland.
“They bombed us for the past 20 days,” said 39-year-old Viktoria Totsen, who also fled to Poland. “During the last five days the planes were flying over us every five seconds and dropped bombs everywhere – on residential buildings, kindergartens, art schools, everywhere.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he is prepared to discuss a commitment that Ukraine will not seek NATO membership in exchange for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.
Zelensky has also said that Ukraine will be ready to discuss the status of Crimea and the eastern Donbas region held by Russian-backed separatists after a ceasefire and steps are taken towards providing security guarantees.
The Kremlin is demanding Ukraine disarm and declare itself neutral. Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday (European time) that he could not share details of ongoing talks, saying that making them public would damage negotiations.
US President Joe Biden travels to Europe this week, where he will attend a summit with NATO leaders looking for ways to strengthen the bloc’s own deterrence and defence to deal with the now openly confrontational Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has bristled at remarks coming from the Americans. The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned that relations with the US are “on the verge of a breach”.
Biden has added a stop to Poland during his trip, visiting a crucial ally of Ukraine which has taken in more than 2 million refugees.
Returning to something that happened earlier this morning, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers has fired a broadside at the Morrison government after the Prime Minister yesterday accused him of wanting to spend irresponsibly.
Here’s what the Labor frontbencher told ABC radio earlier this morning:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
Taking advice from the government on budget responsibility is a bit like taking advice from The Three Stooges. No one takes Larry, Curly and Moe seriously on the budget. Nor should they take Morrison, Frydenberg and Birmingham seriously.
Not after they behaved as the most wasteful government since federation. The party of car park rorts and sports rorts and robo debt. We won’t be taking lectures from them.
Meanwhile, the shadow treasurer appeared open to the idea of a general review of the Labor Party’s culture and complaint-handling processes.
However, he suggested a specific inquiry into the treatment of former senator Kimberley Kitching – which Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese rejected this morning – wasn’t needed because the bullying allegations aired in the media have been denied by those who were named.
Mr Chalmers added that if Senator Kitching were alive, she would want Labor to unite and “get on with the task at hand” (i.e. win the upcoming election).
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin late Tuesday night (Wednesday AEDT), according to the French government’s Elysee Palace.
In the eighth phone call with the Russian leader since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Macron made no headway but did discuss the possibility of a ceasefire.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have engaged in “frank and direct” talks in the lead-up to, and during, the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.Credit:AP
“There is no other way out than a ceasefire and Russia’s good faith negotiations with Ukraine. The President of the Republic stands alongside Ukraine,” the Elysee said in a readout of the call.
The Kremlin confirmed that the call was “at the initiative of the French side”.
Victoria’s official coronavirus numbers are also in.
The state has recorded 10,471 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths. Today’s tally is up on yesterday’s 9594 cases.
There are currently 243 people in hospital with COVID-19. Twenty-three people are in ICU.
Today’s total hospitalisations are down on yesterday’s 256 patients (when there were 24 people in ICU).
A ban by a suburban Melbourne council on supporters of federal political candidates putting up signs in their front yards has been defeated in the Supreme Court.
Independent candidate Zoe Daniel’s campaign manager took Bayside City Council to court this month to challenge the ban, which was announced in late February after Liberal MP Tim Wilson raised concerns about the signage in his seat of Goldstein.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson and independent challenger Zoe Daniel.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen, Simon Schluter
The local council had earlier cited state planning laws as the justification for the signage ban.
But this morning, Justice John Dixon overturned the ban and suggested Bayside Council would likely be asked to pay the court costs of Ms Daniel’s team.
The seat of Goldstein is just one of several electorates where independent candidates are challenging sitting Coalition MPs at the next election.
Ms Daniel is a former ABC journalist and is running on a platform of, among other things, greater action on climate change. Mr Wilson has accused independent candidates of bias on the basis that the majority of high-profile candidates are targeting Coalition seats and not ones held by Labor.
More on the court case here.
with Broede Carmody
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed it is not aware of any Australians on board the fatal China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735.
The plane crashed into a remote mountainside in southeastern China on Monday, with no survivors reported among the 132 people on the aircraft. Emergency workers have recovered burnt ID documents and wallets from the site, but access to it remains challenging as China grapples with its worst air disaster in three decades.
Chinese media outlets were reporting that no foreign nationals were on board the aircraft, but this is the first time we have had independent confirmation from Australian authorities.
A DFAT spokesperson told this masthead the department was “not aware of any Australians on board the plane that crashed in Guangxi Province, China, on 21 March 2022”.
“China Eastern Airlines has confirmed there were no foreigners on the flight.”
NSW’s daily coronavirus numbers are in.
The state has recorded 24,115 new cases of COVID-19 and five deaths. Today’s numbers are up on yesterday’s 20,960 cases.
There are 1162 people in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 44 are in intensive care units.
Today’s hospitalisations are down on yesterday’s 1177 patients (when there were 41 people in intensive care).
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will take part virtually in a NATO summit on Thursday (European time) to discuss the war with Russia.
However, the exact details are still being worked out, Interfax Ukraine cited Zelensky’s press spokesman as saying.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.Credit:AP
The spokesman, Sergii Nykyforov, said that at a minimum, Zelensky would make a video address to the meeting and might take part in the full discussion. In recent weeks, the Ukrainian President has made video addresses to parliaments in the United States and Germany (most recently, Italy).
It comes as US President Joe Biden prepares to fly to Europe for high-level meetings with other world leaders.
Yesterday, Zelensky revealed that he was willing to rule out joining NATO if it meant Russia would end its invasion.
The Ukrainian President has previously called on the United States and its allies to enforce a no-fly zone over his country to ease Russian air strikes. However, the US has so far declined to do so because Russia says a no-fly zone would amount to a wider war between Russia and NATO countries.
Reuters, staff reporters
Staying with federal politics for a moment, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also fronted Nine’s Today show.
Earlier, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese responded to the PM’s claim that he is “gutless” on the Kimberley Kitching issue by saying Mr Morrison is a politician who has his security team “shut off streets so that he [doesn’t] have to talk to people”. In response, the PM said Mr Albanese was speaking “absolute rubbish”.
The PM was asked if the election campaign is already getting “a bit ugly” despite no election date actually being confirmed. Here’s his response:
Well, I think the judgments people are going to make at this next election is going to be about who is best able to manage the economy, because the economy determines the future that Australians will have. Who is best able to manage the very serious national security interests.
Now, you can’t have a weakness in a leader, weakness in someone on those issues when it comes to securing Australia’s future. If Anthony Albanese just is going to dismiss very serious issues in his own party about bullying in his own party, well, he can’t be trusted to show the strength that is needed on international relations and making the tough decisions you have to make about our economy.
Our economic plan is working. We’ve got unemployment down to 4 per cent. We’ve got 220,000 apprentices in trade training. And today we’re announcing a massive project up here in Townsville, $5.4 billion, 100 per cent funded by the Commonwealth, to build the Hells Gate Dam. Now, this is going to transform this entire region. It’s about four times the size of Sydney Harbour. These are the projects that transform nations and open up jobs and opportunities for decades and decades to come.
Nine, which broadcasts the Today show, is also the owner of this masthead.
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