UPDATE 07.58am January 10, 2020 (Hong Kong time): Media reports are stating that the plane was downed by an Iranian missile.
Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) has ruled out the possibility of crew error causing the crash of one of its Boeing 737-800 aircraft in Iran yesterday, and sought to highlight the experience of those who flew the plane.
“Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance,” the airline’s vice president operations Ihor Sosnovsky said in a statement.
UIA said there were three pilots flying the plane. They were:
- Captain Volodymyr Gaponenko (with 11,600 hours on Boeing 737 aircraft including 5,500 hours as captain);
- Instructor pilot Oleksiy Naumkin (with 12,000 hours on Boeing 737 aircraft including 6,600 hours as captain);
- First officer Serhii Khomenko (with 7,600 hours on Boeing 737 aircraft).
“Tehran airport is anything but a simple one. Therefore, for several years UIA has been using this airport to conduct training on Boeing 737 aircraft aimed at evaluating pilots’ proficiency and ability to act in emergency cases,” Sosnovsky said, apparently explaining the presence of an instructor pilot in the cockpit.
There were also six flight attendants on board.
At a news conference yesterday, UIA officials said that the Boeing 737-800 involved in the fatal crash was one of the best planes they had and that its pilots were very experienced, according to Reuters.
Airline officials said there was no sign that anything was wrong before the plane took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport and that it had last been routinely serviced on January 6.
The last scheduled maintenance of the aircraft took place on January 6, 2020, two days before the accident.
The plane had mostly been carrying passengers planning to transit via Ukraine to destinations in Europe
The airline has suspended its scheduled flights between Kyiv and Tehran “until further notice”.
“Passengers will be rerouted, where possible, or offered a refund for unused flights. Passengers are advised to contact the place of ticket purchase,” UIA said.
Ukraine’s air accident investigation agency the National Bureau of Air Accidents Investigation of Ukraine said yesterday: “During flight AUI752 Tehran – Kyiv (Boryspil) on B-737 UR-PSR operated by Ukraine International Airlines at 2:45 UTC, 2 minutes after take-off a fatal accident occurred to the aircraft. According to the preliminary information from mass media, aircraft caught fire. Due to the crash all crew members and passengers were killed. The NBAAI is currently establishing an investigation team to participate in the investigation.”
Business Traveller Asia-Pacific reported yesterday that the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran had ruled out terrorism as a cause of the crash. However, that statement has now been removed from the website and replaced with one saying it is too early to draw any conclusions.
Iran refuses to give black box to Boeing
The flight data recorder, commonly known as a black box, has been recovered from the flight, but the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization Ali Abedzadeh said it would not give the black box to Boeing or “the Americans”.
He added that the information in the flight recorders would be assessed in Iran under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICO) rules,
Article 26 of the Chicago Convention says that the state in which a plane crash occurs will “institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the accident”. The state in which the aircraft is registered – in this case Ukraine – will “be given the opportunity to appoint observers to be present at the inquiry and the State holding the inquiry shall communicate the report and findings in the matter to that State.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has set up a special commission to investigate the crash and ordered prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation, according to the Financial Times.
The New York Times identified the crash site on agricultural land here. The newspaper said that its analysis of photographs of debris, structural damage and blood spatter suggests that the plane was returning to the Tehran airport when it crashed.
Yesterday, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on the crash after it emerged that 63 Canadians were on board.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Sophie [Grégoire Trudeau, my wife] and I offer our deepest condolences to those who have lost family, friends, and loved ones in this tragedy. Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this crash is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered. Today, I assure all Canadians that their safety and security is our top priority. We also join with the other countries who are mourning the loss of citizens.
“[Federal] Minister [of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe] Champagne has been in touch with the government of Ukraine, and is speaking to relevant authorities and to international partners. Minister Garneau is also working with officials from Transport Canada, and is reaching out to his international counterparts.”
Hours before the crash in Iran, airlines had started rerouting flights away from Iranian airspace.
Yesterday, Boeing said it was gathering information about the accident. Today, the manufacturer said: “This is a tragic event and our heartfelt thoughts are with the crew, passengers, and their families. We are in contact with our airline customer and stand by them in this difficult time. We are ready to assist in any way needed.”