Crash: UIA B738 at Tehran on Jan 8th 2020, lost height after departure, aircraft shot down by Iran's armed forces
By Simon Hradecky, created Wednesday, Jan 8th 2020 05:54Z, last updated Sunday, Jan 12th 2020 04:04Z
A UIA Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800, registration UR-PSR performing flight PS-752 from Tehran Imam Khomeini (Iran) to Kiev (Ukraine) with 167 passengers and 9 crew, was climbing through 8000 feet MSL out of Tehran's runway 29R about 12nm northwest of the airport at about 06:18L (02:48Z), when the aircraft's transponder signals ceased. The aircraft was found in an open field near Parand, a surbub of Tehran, at position N35.5529 E51.1121 about 10nm east of the last transponder position (N35.52 E50.91). All occupants perished in the crash.
Iran's Civil Aviation Authority CAO reported the aircraft was handed off by ATC at about 06:18L near Tehran when it fell to the ground. Initial reports indicate all occupants have been killed in the impact. Iran's Accident Investigation Board has dispatched investigators on site. Most occupants were Irani citizens, a number of occupants were citizens of other nations.
Iran's Emergency Services reported no survivors were found by rescue and recovery units dispatched to the crash site.
Ukraine's Embassy to the Iran tweeted that UIA confirmed their aircraft crashed near Tehran Airport after takeoff. According to first information all occupants have been killed. A task force and a hotline for relatives has been set up. The Embassy subsequently added a statement on their website stating: "According to preliminary information from the Iranian side, the plane crashed due to an engine failure due to technical reasons. The version of the terrorist attack or rocket attack is currently excluded." All 9 crew were Ukrainian citizens. At around 08:20Z on Jan 8th 2020 the embassy entirely withdrew their message on their website and replaced it with a travel warning for Iran. On their Twitter feed the Embassy reported according to passenger manifest the aircraft carried 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians (including 9 crew), 10 Swedish citizens, 4 Afghanistan citizens, 3 Germans and 3 British citizens (176 occupants). The embassy later reinstated their earlier, withdrawn message however without the sentence regarding the engine failure, now stating instead: "Information on the causes of the plane crash is clarified by the accident investigation commission. Any statements regarding the causes of the accident before the commission decision are not official."
Iran's Accident Investigation Board reported all their investigators are out to investigate the crash. The crew did not transmit any emergency call and did not indicate any problems. The aircraft crashed about 5 minutes after departure. In the evening the AIB reported the black boxes have not yet been located.
In the late evening the chairman of Iran's CAO reported the black boxes have been located. Iran will not send the black boxes to the USA (NTSB or Boeing) for read out and will not permit the participation of US authorities in the investigation. Investigators from the Ukraine are welcomed however. It is not yet clear where the black boxes will be sent to for read out and analysis.
In a reaction the U.S. Department of State pledged to provide full support for the investigation to the Ukrainian Authorities.
Iran's states news agency IRNA reports 147 occupants were Irani citizens, 32 occupants were citizens of other countries (editorial note: this is 3 people more than the official passenger and crew count released by CAO).
On Jan 9th 2020 Iran's AIB released a brief first report in both Persian and English stating the aircraft began taxi for departure at 06:05L, commenced takeoff at 06:12L and in contact with Imam Khomeini Tower was cleared to climb to FL260. At 06:18L the aircraft climbed through 8000 feet MSL, when the aircraft disappeared from radar, no radio message was received from the aircraft afterwards. Until that point the aircraft had been heading westwards, subsequently it made a right turn as if turning back to the airport due to a technical problem, but impacted ground on that way. A huge explosion occurred as result of impact with the ground. Initial contact with the ground was in a park area, several more collisions with the ground occurred as the aircraft broke up and spread along its trajectory. The ELT activated, however, its antenna separated from the device. All occupants, 167 passengers and 9 crew, perished in the crash, 146 of the passengers used Iranian passports for check in (a number of them holding multiple citizenships), 10 passengers used Afghan, 5 used Canadian, 4 used Swedish and two used Ukrainian passports (all 9 crew also used Ukrainian passports). Witnesses on the ground as well as flight crews at altitude observing the aircraft reported the aircraft was on fire. Both cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were found with impact and fire damage, the memory units are available however also show physical damage on main parts. The AIB sent initial notifications of the accident to Ukraine as country of registration and operation of the aircraft, to the USA as manufacturer, Sweden and Canada as applicants whose nationals were involved in the accident. The AIB requested the Ukraine to participate in the investigation. In accordance with the Chicago Convention the Iranian AIB invites all states, that are recognized as participants into the accident investigation by this document, to accredit representatives. A team of Ukrainian experts are already being dispatched to Iran.
During the night from Jan 8th to Jan 9th 2020 somebody on Twitter released a photo of a Tor 9K331 warhead presumably found at the crash site (and temporarily even the reader comments below flooded over referencing that photo). The location as well as the authenticity of the photo were not verifyable. The Aviation Herald therefore sent an inquiry to Iran's AIB with the photo, the supposed location at the crash site and relevant links in support and contradicting the authenticity of that photo and asked, whether the accident investigation had found such a part (expressing the hope that these issues wouldn't add too much to the stresses of the AIB). Iran's AIB Chairman responded stating: "We save evidence and wreckage of the aircraft and never found this part. All wreckage parts were transferred to the special hanger in order to investigate with cooperation of NTSB, Ukraine NBAI and other interest parties which has been invited officially." The chairman continued: "Due to special political condition of my country, we instituted a special group more than technical accident investigation groups to assess the condition of Laser attack or dangerous good- electromagnetic (radioactive threat) and unlawful action. The initial conclusion of this group confirmed that there was not found any evidence of mentioned actions on the accident site. Also we will trace all other evidences of the accident by gathering all information of the accident." The chairman indicated the AIB plans to release a preliminary first report in English during Jan 9th 2020.
In the afternoon of Jan 9th 2020 the AIB updated their preliminary report (see above) adding 4 pages of English translation of the report following the original Persian text.
On Jan 9th 2020 Ukraine's NBAAI reported: "Ukrainian accredited representative with group of advisors and experts arrived to Islamic Republic of Iran. Investigators would have to collect as much information as possible on the accident site, assess the wreckage in order to control the objectiveness and impartiality of the investigation process. Ukrainian representatives, according to ICAO standards and recommended practices, will participate in procedures of read-out, processing and analysis of flight and voice data, obtained from the flight recorders (black boxes)."
On Jan 9th 2020 Ukrainian Media report citing an unnamed member of the Ukrainian investigation team, that the Iranian officials fully cooperate and don't appear to hide anything, full access to the investigtion and black boxes has been granted, everything is transparent. The aircraft has been on fire, however, as of current the version of an engine malfunction can not be confirmed.
On Jan 9th 2020 The US president stated, "It is a tragic thing. Somebody could have made a mistake. The other side could have made a mistake. ... It was flying in a pretty rough neighbourhood and somebody could have made a mistake . . . I have a feeling something very terrible happened, very devastating."
On Jan 9th 2020 the Canadian Prime Minister announced that intelligence from multiple sources, from allies as well as own intelligence, indicates that the aircraft was shot down by an Iranian surface to air missile. This may well have been unintentional.
On Jan 9th 2020 in response to the claims Iran's CAO (Civil Aviation Authority) stated that a missile attack on the aircraft was scientifically impossible, such rumours make no sense.
On Jan 10th 2020 the NTSB announced they have received a formal notification of the crash by Iran's Accident Investigation Board of the Civil Aviation Organisation of Iran. According ICAO Annex 13 the NTSB have designated an accredited representative to the investigation of the crash involving a Boeing 737-800.
On Jan 10th 2020 Ukraine's investigators on site in Tehran indicated they wanted to search for missile remains at the scene of crash in Tehran.
On Jan 10th 2020 Iran's CAO pledged that the black boxes will be read out and analysed as quickly as possible, however the black boxes are damaged. Ukrainian experts are starting to decode the data, however, external help from France or Canada may be needed. Whatever the result will be, it will be published.
On Jan 11th 2020 Iran's Civil Aviation Organisation confirmed the aircraft was unintentionally and accidentally shot down. The CAO wrote quoting Iran's armed forces: "A Ukrainian passenger plane was hit unintentionally by human error, which unfortunately killed a number of dear compatriots and killed a number of foreign nationals." and explained:
Following the threats of the President and the military commanders of the criminal US to target a large number of targets in the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran and in view of a counter-operation and unprecedented increase in air traffic in the region, the Islamic Republic's Armed Forces Potential threats were at the highest level of readiness.
In the hours after the missile strikes, US terrorist forces' warplanes around the country increased, and some reports of air strikes targeting strategic centers in the country were reported to numerous defense units and targets on some radar plates. It has caused more sensitivity in air defense units.
In such critical and critical conditions, the flight of the Ukrainian Airlines departs from Imam Khomeini Airport and, while in rotation, is in close proximity to a sensitive military center of the IRGC and is in the height and shape of a hostile aircraft. In these circumstances, the plane was accidentally hit by human error, which unfortunately results in the martyrdom of dear compatriots and the death of a number of foreign nationals.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces, while expressing condolences and condolences to the grieving families of foreign nationals and apologizing for the human error, giving full assurance that the pursuit of fundamental reforms in the operational processes at the Armed Forces can be repeated. Make such errors impossible and immediately bring it to the attention of the Armed Forces Judicial Organization to deal with any legal errors.
On Jan 11th 2020, following the admission by Iran, the office of the Ukrainian President released a number of photos of the wreckage, that had already been moved to a storage site at the airport entrance, position N35.4330 E51.1346. The office commented: "The Operational Headquarters of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, created on behalf of President Vladimir Zelensky to investigate the crash of the UIA Ukrainian Airlines plane in Iran, was initially provided with all the necessary information. Our Iranian specialists have been provided with all the video, photo and other materials for analyzing the processes, that were ongoing and are ongoing in Tehran. Based on the information gathered through the work of our expert team, we had enough data to understand that the investigation would take place objectively and in a timely manner. The political part of the work is complete. Our specialists continue to work to complete all necessary legal procedures." The office also commented: "From the outset, local residents had access to the crash site, which hindered the investigation." Ukraine's security advisor reported those photos, that show the missile struck the aircraft from underneath the cockpit, were collected prior to the admission by Iran.
Local residents videotaped an aircraft, presumably the UIA Boeing 737-800, while climbing out of Tehran, losing height and impacting ground. The voice on the video says he was in Ferdowsi Quarter of Shahriah (approx. position N35.5973 E51.0239 about 4nm southsouthwest of Shahriah), the aircraft was on fire (which obviously prompted the person to start filming), following some expressions of fear and asking for divine support for the people the voice states he now needed to call the fire department. The approximate position of the filmer is about 5nm northwest of the crash site.
There are photos circulating on the Internet, mainly via Iranian Student News Agency ISNA, who appear to show aircraft parts with Shrapnell holes similiar to MH-17, see Crash: Malaysia B772 near Donetsk on Jul 17th 2014, aircraft was shot down from separatist controlled ground. An original photos produced by Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press at high resultion (3500x2333 pixel) reveals however, that the "punctures" are the result of stones on the part of the fuselage and their shadows. As an exception we make the original large photo availabe via a click at the usual image (width 750 pixel) in the photo section.
On Jan 9th 2020 another local resident's video surfaced showing the aircraft as it was hit by an object emitting dim light rising from the ground at the bottom left in the very first few seconds of the video, a large flash occurs in the sky, the aircraft continues burning, about 10 seconds after the flash a loud bang is heard. Bellingcat analysed the video and determined the camera was located at position N35.4894 E50.9069 viewing to the northeast (see graphics below the video).
On Jan 9th 2020 at 21:40Z, and after the discovery of the video confirming the already suspected shoot down by a missile, at 22:07Z The Aviation Herald sent two inquiries to Iran's AIB followed by another one on Jan 10th 2020 at 12:36Z, in which The Aviation Herald confronted the AIB with the videos and three photos, we had published up until Jan 9th 2020, see the photos below now marked with reference to the vertical tail, and pointed out to the AIB, that apart from the charred left side of the vertical fin there was a large exit hole on the left side and a corresponding entry hole at the right side arguing some object had penetrated in a nearly right angle to the surface. This object was impossible to have been any part of the aircraft, and given the movement of the aircraft debris after ground impact it was also impossible to be an object from the ground, hence these photos prove external influence. The photos of the vertical tail on its right side were added to our coverage on Jan 9th 2020 16:30Z. The Aviation Herald expresses highest respect for the courage to admit and confirm the unintentional shoot down to Iran's AIB and Iran's government while The Aviation Herald condemns the attack on a civilian aircraft.
The point of first ground impact is at position N35.5625 E51.1033, the field of debris expands south of that location - which suggests, the aircraft had turned around and was moving in the direction of the airport again.
Severe tensions developed between the USA and Iran following a drone strike on Jan 3rd 2020 against an Irani military leader in Baghdad (Iraq) on the order by the president of the USA, the Iran began counter strikes firing missiles against US military bases in the evening of Jan 7th 2020.
Sursa: The Aviation Herald