China Northern Airlines Flight 6136

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China Northern Airlines Flight 6136
B-2139 MD-82 China Northern Al NGO 20MAY03 (8415548219).jpg
A China Northern Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-82 similar to the aircraft that crashed.
DateMay 7, 2002 (2002-05-07)
SummaryLoss of control caused by in-flight arson
SiteBohai Bay, near Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport, Dalian, Liaoning, China
Aircraft typeMcDonnell Douglas MD-82
OperatorChina Northern Airlines
Flight originBeijing Capital International Airport
DestinationDalian Zhoushuizi International Airport

China Northern Airlines Flight 6136 (CBF6136/CJ6136) was a Chinese domestic passenger flight from Beijing Capital International Airport to Dalian Zhoushuizi International Airport. On May 7, 2002, the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 operating the flight crashed into the bay near Dalian shortly after the pilot reported "fire on board", killing all 103 passengers and 9 crew members. The cause of the fire was later determined to be arson.[1]


The aircraft involved was a McDonnell Douglas MD-82 with the registration B-2138 and manufacturer's serial number 49522. It had been built in 1991 and had accumulated about 27,000 hours of flight time in service. According to senior official of the General Administration of the Civil Aviation of China, Yang Yuanyuan, the aircraft had just undergone its routine maintenance check and had a perfect maintenance record.[2][3][4]

The aircraft had been involved in two previous hijackings (neither of which resulted in fatalities) to Taipei, Taiwan, both of which occurred in 1993:

  • On November 12, while flying from Changchun to Fuzhou, the aircraft was hijacked by two Chinese men, who were armed with scalpels and claimed to have a bomb on board (though this was later determined to be a blood pressure gauge). The hijackers demanded to be flown to Taiwan. The aircraft landed safely in Taipei, Taiwan, and the hijackers surrendered to the authorities. All 82 people on board survived.[5]
  • On December 8, while flying from Qingdao to Fuzhou, the aircraft was hijacked a second time when a Chinese man stabbed a flight attendant with a scalpel and demanded the pilots to fly the aircraft to Taiwan, claiming that he had a bomb on board. The aircraft landed safety in Taipei, Taiwan, and the hijacker surrendered to the authorities. All 137 people on board survived, including the stabbed flight attendant. The subsequent investigation revealed that there was no bomb on board the aircraft.[6]


The jetliner left its boarding gate at Beijing Capital International Airport at 20:22 and took off at 20:37 local time (12:37 UTC) from Runway 36R. At 21:20, as the aircraft neared Dalian, the captain reported "fire in cabin" and "the tail is on fire" to Dalian tower and requested an emergency landing.[7][8] At 21:24 the aircraft disappeared from the radar screen and lost contact with air traffic control.[9] It was due to arrive in Dalian at 21:40. The aircraft crashed in the water at a 90 degree bank angle and 30 degree nose down pitch. Witnesses stated that the aircraft made several circles before suddenly plunging into the sea with its light out.[9][10]

Emergency services were immediately deployed shortly after the crash. Chinese Navy forces stationed in Dalian deployed four naval ships into the crash site. More than 30 tug boats joined the search and rescue mission. Rescuers immediately recovered 60 bodies and debris from the crash site, including a badly burned food cart.[9] President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji ordered aviation, police and transport agencies and the Chinese military to fully organize and support the rescue efforts.[9]

On May 8, Chinese search and rescue personnel detected signals from the flight recorders. Dalian authorities sent 51 divers to 17 different locations to find the flight recorders of the plane.[2] On 10 May, weak signals were detected by salvage workers. They also recovered a 15 metre section of the plane from the sea. On May 14, seven days after the disaster, the two flight recorders were retrieved from the seabed by searchers.[1][11][12]

Passengers and crew[edit]

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
China 96 9 105
France 1 0 1
India 1 0 1
Japan 3 0 3
Singapore 1 0 1
South Korea 1 0 1
Total 103 9 112

Of the 103 passengers, 96 were from China; three were Japanese; and the remaining four were from France, India, Singapore and South Korea. 100 of the passengers were adults while 3 were children. Most of the passengers were residents of Dalian.[9][13]

The pilot of the flight was Captain Wang Yongxiang.[a] He was born in 1967 with more than 11,000 total flying hours. The second in command was Chen Xiuming.[b] He was born in 1973 with 3,300 total flying hours. The flight engineer was Pan Mintsi,[c] with a total flying time of 4,980 hours.[14]


The Chinese Government immediately ordered an investigation into the cause of the crash. A special investigation panel sent by the central government later arrived in Dalian. The panel consisted of vice secretary-general of the State Council Long Quan; heads of the Ministry of Communications, the General Administration of Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Public Security, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the United States.[9][15][16]

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, in-flight fire was suspected as the main cause of the crash. This was confirmed by the crew's emergency call to ATC about the presence of fire on board the aircraft. Multiple witnesses also supported this theory. The possibility of an in-flight fire became higher after rescuers retrieved a badly burnt food cart on the crash site.[17]

Chinese provincial papers stated that a short-circuit might have caused the fire.[18]

In response to the crash of Air China Flight 129 and China Northern Airlines Flight 6136, CAAC official Yuanyuan stated that China's air safety reform would be delayed.[19]

Findings of the accident investigation were published by the Xinhua News Agency on December 8, 2002. A passenger named Zhang Pilin[d] apparently set fire to the passenger cabin with gasoline, causing the loss of control and crash. Zhang had purchased seven air insurance policies worth a total of 1,400,000 renminbi (about 170,000 USD) prior to boarding the flight.[20][16]

The investigation of the wreckage showed a quantity of gasoline near Zhang's seat, and that most passengers, including Zhang, died of carbon monoxide inhalation. The engines, cabin floor, and other critical parts showed no signs of burning or explosion.

Further investigation showed that Zhang had flown from Dalian to Beijing and returned to Dalian on Flight 6136 the same day. According to security camera recordings, he had spent several hours smoking cigarettes in the waiting hall of Beijing airport. Zhang purchased two insurance policies before leaving Dalian and purchased the remaining five in Beijing. Some water bottles filled with gasoline were also found in Zhang's apartment. The investigation also showed that Zhang was married, had a son, ran his own company, and was in a large amount of debt.[21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chinese: 王永祥; pinyin: Wáng Yǒngxiáng
  2. ^ simplified Chinese: 陈旭明; traditional Chinese: 陳旭明; pinyin: Chén Xùmíng
  3. ^ Chinese: 潘明奇; pinyin: Pān Míngqí
  4. ^ Chinese: 张丕林; pinyin: Zhāng Pīlín


  1. ^ a b Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82) B-2138 Dalian". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2020-03-20.
  2. ^ a b "Clues elusive in China plane crash". CNN. 9 May 2002. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  3. ^ "B-2138 China Northern Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-82". Retrieved 2020-03-20.
  4. ^ "China Northern Airlines B-2138 (McDonnell Douglas MD-80/90 - MSN 49522)". Airfleets aviation. Retrieved 2020-03-20.
  5. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82) B-2138 Taipei". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2019-02-02.
  6. ^ Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82) B-2138 Taipei". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 2019-02-02.
  7. ^ "No survivors in Chinese air crash". BBC News. 8 May 2002. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  8. ^ "Accident of a MD-82 operated by China Northern Airlines - Off Dalian (yellow sea), China". Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "China Northern Airlines Plane Crashes". People. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  10. ^ Eckholm, Erik (8 May 2002). "Chinese Jet, Carrying 112, Crashes in Sea Near the Coast". The New York Times. p. A8. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  11. ^ "One 'Black Box' From Crashed Plane Found". People. 2002-05-15. Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  12. ^ "Second 'Black Box' From Crashed Plane Found". People. 2002-05-19. Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  13. ^ "Search for survivors of China Northern plane crash halted". Taipei Times. AP. 9 May 2002. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  14. ^ "五七"空难失事飞机正副驾驶员资料获披露 [Information on the crew and co-pilots of the May 7 plane crash was disclosed]. Sina News (in Chinese). 2002-05-09. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  15. ^ "Chinese leaders take charge of crash recovery". CNN. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  16. ^ a b "美方将派遣5人小组前往中国协助调查大连空难_民航新闻_民航资源网" [The U.S. will send a team of 5 people to China to assist in the investigation of the Dalian air crash]. (in Chinese). 2002-05-09. Retrieved 2020-08-20.
  17. ^ "Little hope of survivors in plane crash". The Age. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  18. ^ "Chinese officials told to shape up on safety". CNN. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  19. ^ "Chinese air crashes 'delay' reforms". BBC News. BBC. 10 May 2002. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  20. ^ "Money motive in mass murder". China Daily / Shanghai Star. 12 December 2002. Archived from the original on 25 August 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  21. ^ Wrigley, Sylvia (2015). "Chapter Four: Exploding Passenger". Why Planes Crash – Case Files: 2002. E-Quality Press.
  22. ^ "北航空难购买5份保险者的身份查明:是大连个体户" [It is difficult for Beihang Airlines to purchase 5 insurances to verify the identity of the individual: Dalian self-employed]. (in Chinese). Sina Corp. 2002-05-12. Retrieved 2020-08-20.

External links[edit]