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November 30, 2009

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Fatal Shanghai plane crash probed

THE circumstances and cause of the cargo-plane crash that killed three foreigners at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport on Saturday were still under investigation last night.

The Zimbabwe-registered aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 of Avient Aviation, had seven people on board when it crashed on takeoff, injuring the other four.

The investigation team will include aviation authorities and representatives from Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1996, said a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Administration Bureau of East China.

A 61-year-old American, identified as the co-pilot, was in a critical condition with broken bones and was transferred from Pudong to a downtown hospital yesterday.

The other three people injured remain under treatment in a hospital in the Pudong New Area.

Pudong airport officials said flight delays may continue in the next few days as repair work and checks continued on the runway damaged in the crash.

The city's major airport appeared to be returning to normal yesterday, reporting no passenger congestion but some delays.

Hours after the accident happened at 8:12am, state civil aviation authorities ordered a countrywide check on airports and plane operations.

"Strict flight surveillance is needed and overloading is prohibited," said the Civil Aviation Administration of China in a statement.

On Saturday night investigators found the flight and cockpit recorders from the plane near the crash scene.

Authorities said earlier the aircraft "overshot the runway and exploded on impact."

Thousands of passengers were delayed as the airport shut two runways soon after the fatal crash.

Witnesses said the plane became airborne for a couple of seconds before heading downward, sending a large plume of black smoke over the airport. There were unconfirmed reports that its tail hit the ground as it took off.

Meteorological data for Pudong around the time of the accident showed good visibility and no unusual weather conditions.

The plane was scheduled to fly to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, aviation authorities said.

Richard Buangan, deputy spokesman at the United States Embassy in Beijing, told The Associate Press on Saturday that three American crew members were confirmed dead with a fourth hospitalized.

Chinese aviation authorities have not released the names of the victims.

Air Transport Intelligence, an online American intelligence service, said yesterday on its Website that the US National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to support the Shanghai investigation.

It will include advisers from the US Federal Aviation Administration and the MD-11's engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney.

The aircraft has been confirmed as Avient Aviation's newly delivered MD-11, registration number Z-BAV. The carrier received the plane just last week.

An MD-11 was also involved in a crash that killed nine people at Shanghai's Hongqiao International Airport in April 1999.


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