It Sure Looks Like the Ukrainian Airliner May Have Been Accidentally Shot Down in Iran

It Sure Looks Like the Ukrainian Airliner May Have Been Accidentally Shot Down in Iran, by Jeff Wise.

In the wake of the crash of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 in Tehran this morning, two schools of thought quickly emerged. The first accepted the explanation given by Iranian authorities: that the 3-year-old 737-800, which had taken off minutes before, had suffered engine failure before plunging into the ground at Khalaj Abad, killing all 176 aboard. The second, widespread on the internet, was that the Kiev-bound plane had been accidentally shot down by an Iranian air-defense missile. …

Given the information we have right now, the second explanation makes more sense than the first. …

The plane took off … a little more than three hours after Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops. Three minutes later, it had reached an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet and was continuing to climb at a steady ground speed of 276 knots, or 318 mph. Then, abruptly, it dropped. A state-run Iranian media outlet released a video that appeared to show the aircraft descending in flames before impacting the ground.

An Iranian official told the IRNA news agency that a fire had broken out in one of the engines, causing the pilot to lose control. Engine malfunctions can certainly cause planes to crash but generally not in the manner observed with Flight 752. The wing, not the engine, is what keeps a plane in the air, and even if a plane loses power in all its engines, it can still glide for a considerable distance under pilot control (see: the Miracle on the Hudson). Even if an engine catches fire, the flight crew generally has time to respond.

Worth noting too is that Iran’s explanation came implausibly quickly, before officials had scarcely had a chance to pick through the still-smoldering debris. Tellingly, Ukrainian officials, who had endorsed the engine-failure explanation soon after the crash, soon backtracked, saying it was too early to ascribe a cause. …

It is plausible, however, that Iranian air-defense forces would have been on high alert. President Trump had already warned that the U.S. military would aggressively bomb Iran if the country used force in the spiraling escalation between the two countries. Tehran, the nation’s capital, would be an obvious target. …

If the tragedy was indeed the result of an accidental shoot-down, it presents eerie echoes of the destruction of Iran Air 655, an Airbus A300 that the U.S. destroyer Vincennes shot down on July 3, 1988, killing all 290 aboard. That accident also happened during a period of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran — though in that case, it was overeager U.S. personnel who mistakenly pulled the trigger.

Iran refuses to hand over airliner’s black box, by Danielle Wallace.

Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Tehran’s civil aviation organization, told Mehr news agency in Tehran that Iran has not made a decision on which country or international authority it would send the black box to for its data to be analyzed, Reuters reported.

Fearing a US attack in response to their missile strike, the Iranians were too trigger happy and likely accidentally shot down a passenger plane. Echoes of 1987. Sad. The Iranians are probably guilty, and they know it. What a mess.