The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Tuesday that China has issued visas to investigators and technical advisers to support the investigation into the March 21 crash of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800.
The NTSB said Beijing had permitted the entry of staff from the agency as well as technicians from the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing and engine maker CFM. “The team hopes to depart this week,” the NTSB said.
Separately, the US Department of Transportation said it had approved a request by China Eastern to temporarily move New York to Shanghai flights to a different Chinese airport due to a coronavirus outbreak in the financial centre.
The department granted China Eastern’s request starting March 31 to move existing twice-weekly Shanghai westbound passenger flights from New York to Fuzhou Changle International Airport until the end of April.
The Chinese airline said earlier because of “evolving coronavirus pandemic control measures in the Shanghai region, China Eastern has been instructed” by aviation officials “to divert Shanghai-bound passenger flights arriving from the US”.
China’s aviation regulator said earlier this month it would divert 106 international flights scheduled to arrive in Shanghai to other domestic cities from March 21 to May 1 due to Covid-19.
The affected flights include those operated by Air China , China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines, Juneyao Airlines and Spring Airlines, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.
On Tuesday, China’s most populous city tightened the first phase of a two-stage Covid-19 lockdown, asking some residents to stay indoors unless they are getting tested as the number of new daily cases exceeded 4,400.
The financial hub of Shanghai, home to 26 million people, is in a lockdown authorities are imposing by dividing the city roughly along the Huangpu River, splitting the historic centre of Puxi from the financial and industrial district of Pudong.
Since early 2020, China and the US have been at odds at various times about international flights between the two nations and restrictions imposed by both countries.
In January, the US government said it was suspending 44 China-bound flights by four Chinese carriers in response to the Chinese government’s decision to suspend some US carrier flights over Covid-19 concerns.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell