Henan Airlines, controlled by Air China Ltd., canceled all flights today after one of its aircraft crashed, killing at least 42 people in China’s first fatal commercial-plane accident in almost six years.
The move was reported by state-run Xinhua News Agency and confirmed by a Henan Air official, who declined to give her name when telephoned by Bloomberg News today. Neither said how long the suspension would last.
A Henan Air Embraer E190, carrying 96 people, broke in two and caught fire after overshooting the runway in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang at 9:36 p.m. yesterday, according to Xinhua. China last had a fatal commercial crash in 2004, as improving safety standards and the acquisition of modern planes helps the aviation industry cope with a threefold jump in passenger numbers over the past nine years.
“The safety record at most big Chinese airlines has been improving,” said Bai Bingyang, a Shanghai-based analyst at Capital Securities Corp. “Still, this will bring flight safety back into the limelight and may spur tougher inspections.”
Investigators have found the black box from the aircraft, according to Xinhua. The plane’s captain was among the 54 people who survived the crash, the news agency said. All survivors were injured, including seven in a severe condition, it said.
Vice Minister Sun Baoshu of the Human Resources and Social Security Ministry, was who onboard the plane, is in a critical state, the news agency said. The aircraft was also carrying 17 members of staff from the ministry, it reported, without saying how many in the group were killed.
First E-Jet Crash
Planemaker Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA has sent a team to help with the investigation, it said in a statement. The crash is the first fatal accident involving the Brazilian company’s E-Jet family of regional aircraft, according to a Flight Safety Foundation Website.
Henan Air had a fleet of five E-190s as of last month and it has ordered 50 ARJ-21 regional jets from Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China, according to Flight International’s World Airliner Census.
Tracy Chen, a spokeswoman for Embraer in Beijing and Huang Bin, a spokesman for Air China, declined to comment on the crash. Air China gained a controlling stake in Henan Air’s parent, Shenzhen Airlines, earlier this year.
Air China, the world’s largest airline by market value, fell 2.2 percent to 11.39 yuan in Shanghai trading today. In Hong Kong, the carrier dropped 2.8 percent to HK$8.44 as of 3:13 p.m. Embraer slid 3.9 percent to 10.42 reais yesterday in Sao Paulo.
The 40-minute flight departed from the city of Harbin at 8:51 p.m. local time for Yichun city’s Lindu Airport, the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China said. The airport, in a forested valley about 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from downtown Yichun, has been shut, the regulator said.
State broadcaster China Central Television’s news channel read out the names and the national identification card numbers of passengers killed in the crash during a broadcast today. Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang traveled to the crash site late yesterday, Xinhua reported.
The first E-190, which seats as many as 114 passengers, was delivered to JetBlue Airways Corp. in 2005, according to Embraer’s website. There are about 600 E-Jet family planes in operation, spread across 46 carriers in 30 countries, it said.
The Henan Air accident is China’s worst air disaster since a Bombardier Inc. CRJ-200 plane operated by China Eastern Airlines Corp. crashed into a frozen lake in Inner Mongolia shortly after takeoff in November 2004, killing 53 people onboard.
China airline passenger numbers rose 20 percent last year to 230 million, Xinhua said in January. That compares with 67.2 million in 2000. In the first seven months of this year, the number of travelers rose 18 percent to 151.8 million