Iran Refuses to Allow Boeing, US Access to Black Boxes in Ukraine Airlines Crash

Israel

Photo Credit: André Gustavo Stumpf / Wikimedia

A “black box,” also known as a flight data recorder.

Iran is refusing to allow Boeing, or US National Transportation Safety Board investigators to have access to the flight data records that were recovered from the crash on Wednesday of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 in Tehran.

The aircraft, which was heading to Kyiv, made it to an altitude of 8,000 feet and was about two minutes into the flight when it suddenly disappeared from the radar, according to Flightradar 24. All 176 people aboard the aircraft perished.

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The aviation information service OpsGroup has advised operators, meanwhile, to assume that the airplane was shot down until further notice.

“Images posted on the OpsGroup website show apparent projectile holes in the fuselage and a wing section,” the group wrote. “Whether the projectile was an engine part or a missile fragment remains the subject of conjecture but operators should err ‘on the side of caution,’”it said.

The victims include 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians (9 were crew members), 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons, according to Ukraine Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko. Iran’s head of emergency operations said 147 of the victims were Iranian, which suggests that many of the passengers held dual citizenship.

It’s not yet clear what caused the crash.

Ukraine International Airlines said the plane, a Boeing 737-800 NG, was “built in 2016 and delivered directly to the airline from the manufacturer.” It had its last scheduled maintenance this past Monday.

There was good visibility when the plane went down near the Iranian capital, according to Flightradar 24. Airline officials said the crew was experienced.

Qassem Biniaz, a spokesperson for Iran’s Road and Transportation Ministry, told the state-run IRNA news agency that one of the plane’s engines caught on fire, and the pilot then lost control of the plane.

The “black boxes” (which are actually bright orange to make it easier to locate them), were located quickly. They are usually analyzed by the manufacturer of the plane following a crash. But Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization director Ali Abedzadeh told the Mehr news agency the aircraft’s flight data recorders would not be sent to Boeing. “We will not give the black box to the manufacturer and the Americans,” he told Mehr, adding that the pilots in the aircraft “did not contact the control tower ahead of the crash, and the flight crew had not reported any technical problems.

Ukraine International Airlines announced the investigation into the crash will involve the airline, the National Bureau of Air Accident Investigation of Ukraine, aviation authorities in Ukraine and Iran, and representatives of Boeing. In addition, officials from the Ukraine ministries of defense, foreign affairs and international affairs will travel to Iran to join the investigation and to identify and repatriate the bodies of Ukrainian nationals killed in the crash, according to a Facebook post written by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Ukrainian leader has warned against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe” until the official reports are in. However, Zelensky has also requested a criminal investigation into the crash.

Ukraine International Airlines has suspended all flights to Tehran until further notice. The airline’s officials told journalists that the crew on the aircraft was highly trained, and that “given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal.”

US intelligence personnel are “taking a look at the crash,” a source told CNN, as suspicions continue to grow about what could have caused the aircraft to drop off the radar.

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