This has been a miserable week for aviation. On Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the sad news came out that Ukraine International Airlines’ 737-800 had one of their aircraft downed as it took off from Iran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport to Boryspil International Airport, Kyiv, in Ukraine. There were 176 people on board, including nine crew members. The aircraft went down just three minutes after takeoff. The plane crashed into terrain located about 15 kilometres north of the airport. The crash occurred about five hours after Iran launched missile strikes on Iraqi airbases.
The aircraft was just 3.5 years into service and had been inspected two days before the incident. The initial narrative spread right after the crash was that the plane went down due to a technical fault with the aircraft. This was impossible to establish in the dark of the night and given Iran itself was trying to spread this; there seemed to be something that did not add up.
Over the next couple of days, the US claimed that the plane was indeed shot down, and Canada and other countries backed up that claim. Iran rebuffed the claim, and also refused to hand over the black boxes to a neutral country, and claiming there were memory wipes and other tech faults with the retrieved black boxes. They, of course, did not do a good job of the cover-up given there was radar evidence of a radar coming on and missiles being fired.
Today, Iran’s foreign minister admitted on Twitter that this incident was indeed caused by human error from their end.
The Iranian Military quickly followed up with a statement of their own, admitting that this was a situation where a missile was launched in a fog of war state,
The military was at its highest level of readiness. In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit
While acknowledging their mistake, Iran has committed to doing better to avoid such errors and will subject those responsible to a judicial process. While the whole incident is unfortunate, and the narrative kept shifting from time to time till the time Iran admitted the brave truth, because five years ago, at the time of MH17, Russia expressed no such admittance. Thankfully, though, this would give some closure to the families of the victims, most of whom are, again Iran nationals.
Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people.
Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake. #PS752
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 11, 2020
Unfortunately, Iran could have done better in many more aspects. Questions, for instance, are, that why is it that Iran allowed the airport to function and regular take/off and landings to happen when they were in the midst of a situation. Iran also blamed this on US Adventurism.
Ukraine’s President has asked for a full apology and the bodies to be sent back, apart from compensation for the victims. The trouble with that is, economic sanctions on Iran would not perhaps allow them to access their own money even if they wanted.
This morning brings the truth.
Ukraine insists on a full admission of guilt. We expect Iran to bring those responsible to justice, return the bodies, pay compensation and issue an official apology. The investigation must be full, open & continue without delays or obstacles.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 11, 2020
This is unfortunate on so many levels, that while commercial technology enables ordinary people to access the flight data on our phones, the Iranian military did not have the equipment to distinguish a civil airliner from a military one, and cause such a mishap, even if “by accident.”