The captain of a plane that crashed in Heilongjiang province four years ago, killing 44 people, has been jailed for three years. It is the first time on the mainland that a pilot has been convicted of causing a major air accident, the China News Service said. Qi Quanjun was the captain of the Henan Airlines flight that crashed near Yichun airport in August 2010. The plane was flying to Yichun from the provincial capital Harbin with 91 passengers and five crew when it crashed 690 metres from the runway; 52 people were injured. A government investigation said pilot error caused the crash. A report by State Council-appointed investigators said that Qi and his co-pilot had insisted on landing at Yichun Airport, despite heavy fog. A court in Yichun ruled yesterday that pilot error led to the crash, which caused losses of over 300 million yuan (HK$379 million). It criticised Qi for leaving the plane before evacuating passengers after it caught fire, and recommended he lose his licence. Qi's co-pilot died in the crash. Accident investigators said the crash was also partly caused by substandard safety management by the airline. Qi's lawyer Zhang Qihuai said they were considering appealing against the jail term, China Youth Daily reported. He said the ruling was based on the State Council's investigation, but by law the court should have heard further evidence. Qi has been in detention for more than two years and is likely to be released next year, even if he does not appeal. Zhang said survivors were also planning to sue government departments. "The northeast regional bureau of the Civil Aviation Administration, the Heilongjiang air traffic management bureau, Henan Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines will be sued jointly," he said. Henan Airlines is a subsidiary of Shenzhen Airlines, which in turn is part of Air China. The crash was China's worst since a China Eastern airplane plunged into a lake in Inner Mongolia in 2004, killing 55.