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Ukraine plane crash: Ukraine airline crash in Iran provokes conflicting statements World News



Ukrainian plane carrying at least 176 people crashed
shortly after Tehran’s take-off on Wednesday, killing everyone on board. It was unclear what caused the disaster, but the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, fell amid a growing and violent conflict between the United States and Iran.

Ukraine and Iran’s first statements about what happened to the flight, which was headed to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, were confusing and contradictory. A few hours earlier, Iran had fired missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, and Iranian forces were on alert for a U.S. counterattack.

Although the evidence remained schematic, aviation experts said what was known to indicate that the aircraft could have been attacked. Researchers should have that possibility “at the top of their agenda,” said Peter Goelz, former managing director of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

The Iranian Student News Agency, a state media organization, shared a video that said it showed the crash before dawn, with a plane, apparently on fire, descending into the distance before a bright burst will fill the sky upon impact.

Photos and videos of the crash site showed rescuers in a field full of aircraft debris, burning fires and passengers’ belongings.

Ukraine’s international flight 752 left Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran at 6:12 a.m. on local Wednesday and abruptly ceased automatic transmission of flight data two or three minutes later, although it remained in the air for about 6:12 a.m. on local time and abruptly ceased transmission of flight data two or three minutes later, although it remained in the air for about about 6:12 a.m. minutes more.

Experts say it’s an extremely rare sequence of events, even in a catastrophic accident, and even more unexpected on a relatively new aircraft, built in 2016, of a model with a very good safety record.

The aircraft had reached an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet and a speed of more than 300 mph, according to Flightradar24, which tracks the aircraft by their radio signals.

“Plans just don’t explode in the air,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analytics at Teal Group, an aviation consulting firm. “It doesn’t work that way.”

After an accident, “black boxes,” or flight data recorders, are often sent to the plane manufacturer for analysis, but the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzadeh, told the semi-official Mehr News Ukraine International Airlines flight to Boeing, an American carrier.

“We’re not going to give the black box to the manufacturer and the Americans,” Mehr quoted. He said Ukrainian officials would be involved in Iran’s investigation into the accident.

Michael Huerta, a former administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, said the fact that the accident occurred in Iran would complicate the investigation. Normally, the country where an accident occurs leads the investigation and includes officials from the country where the plane occurred, in this case the United States.

“In global aviation we would like to think that technical experts will rule the day, but since it is Iran, we will have to wait and see,” Huerta said.

The NTSB, which often participates in aviation accident investigations in other parts of the world, “is working with the State Department and other agencies to determine the best course of action,” said Christopher O’Neil, a spokesman.

A spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, Abolfazl Shekarchi, said the accident was not the result of any military action.

“They are spreading propaganda that the Ukrainian flight was attacked,” Shekarchi cited by the Iranian media. “This is ridiculous. Most of the passengers on this flight were our valuable young Iranian men and women. Whatever we do, we do it for the protection and defense of our country and our people.”

Qassem Biniaz, an official of the Iranian Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, told the Islamic Republic News Agency, the official government news agency, that an engine of the plane caught fire and that the pilot was unable to regain control.

Iranian news organizations linked to the government referred to technical problems with the aircraft, but did not elaborate or cite evidence. Later, Abedzadeh told Mehr that until now there was no evidence of technical problems.

A passenger plane must be able to fly even if an engine fails. An “uncontained” engine failure, in which parts of an engine disintegrate, can spray shrapnel that can damage or even destroy an aircraft, but such events are rare.

The plane appears to have run northwest and flown for several kilometres after its transponder stopped working. It crashed on agricultural land near the village of Khalaj Abad, about 10 miles northwest of where the aircraft’s signal was last recorded by Flightradar24. Photographs of the crash site showed debris spread over an area at least 200 meters long.

“It woke us up,” said Sajad Shirkhani, 29, who lives near the crash site. “We got out of bed and ran outside, and all the windows of our house were broken. We ran outside; we thought we were hit by a missile, that there was a war.

After the accident, the Ukrainian embassy in Iran issued a statement ruling out terrorism or a rocket attack as the cause of the accident. But the statement was subsequently removed from the embassy’s website and replaced by one saying it was too early to draw conclusions.

Abedzadeh said the plane had not contacted the control tower about an emergency.

The disaster has the potential to add to Boeing’s crisis, which has been dealing with the consequences of two accidents involving a different jet model, the 737 Max, which the software has been blamed for.

There were 176 people aboard the Ukraine International Airlines flight, including nine crew members, according to the airline, which published the names of the dead, but the Iranian authorities listed 177, while some news organizations Iranians cited other figures. The breakdown of the nationalities of the victims also diverged, although it may be due to some passengers having dual citizenship; Iran’s tally included 147 Iranians and two Canadians, while Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said there were 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians.

“Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that this accident is thoroughly investigated and that the Canadians’ questions are answered,” Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, said in a statement.

At a press conference at Boryspil International Airport in Kiev several hours after the accident, Ukraine International Airlines executives said the aircraft had been in good working order and was being operated by a highly trained crew. They offered no theories as to what might have happened and refused to comment on whether it could have been shot down.

“Given his experience, it’s very hard to say there was something wrong with the crew,” Ihor Sosnovskyi, the airline’s vice president of flight operations, said at the briefing.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine said he had ordered the attorney general to open a criminal investigation into the accident and that the country’s entire civil aviation fleet would be reviewed.

“All possible versions of what happened should be examined,” Zelenskiy said in a Facebook post, adding that Ukrainian experts would travel to Tehran to investigate and recover the bodies of Ukrainians.

Boeing faces its own pressure. The company has been under intense scrutiny after the crash of two 737 Max aircraft in less than five months that together killed 346 people. The Max has been punished around the world since March, creating a crisis for the company and leading to the firing of the chief executive.

As the company struggles to secure a solution for the regulator-approved Max, new security risks have recently emerged with the aircraft. The company may also need to assess those risks in the 737-NG family, which includes the 737-800.

The 737-NG is one of the most widely used aircraft in the world; more than 7,000 have been built since 1998, and has a very good safety record. He has recorded more than 250 million flight hours and fewer than a dozen fatal accidents.

“We are aware of Iran’s media reports, and we are gathering more information,” Boeing said in a statement.

The accident occurred at a tense time in Iran, as the conflict with the United States had the country on edge. Iran fired missiles early on Wednesday, local time, at Iraq bases used by U.S. forces, in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike on Friday that killed a senior Iranian general and the leader of Iraqi militias supported by Iran, the latter in a long sequence of escalations.

On Tuesday, the FAA banned Usyou have to fly over Iran, citing the risk that commercial aircraft would be mistaken for military aircraft. Several non-U.S. carriers redirected flights Wednesday to avoid Iraq and Iran, according to Flightradar24.

In 2014, at the beginning of the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, a Russian missile shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing 298 people.

The accident could touch a nerve politically in Ukraine because Ukraine International Airlines is partly owned by a network of offshore companies by Ihor Kolomoisky. Kolomoisky is an oligarch with close ties to the president of Ukraine.

While airlines in the former Soviet Union generally have poor safety records, Ukraine International Airlines said on its website that their security is audited and meets FAA standards for codeshare flights with foreign partners. He had not previously suffered a fatal accident, according to a list of Ukrainian Aircraft Accidents compiled by the Flight Safety Foundation.

The airline said the aircraft was manufactured in 2016 and delivered directly from the factory, and that it had more recently undergone scheduled maintenance on Monday, two days before the crash. The airline said it was cancelling flights to Tehran indefinitely and promised a full investigation into the causes of the accident, involving officials from Ukraine, Iran and Boeing.

Ukraine International Airlines began in the 1990s as the state-flagged airline of an independent New Ukraine, but was subsequently privatized. Its website calls the company a “private public entity”. Before suspending service to Tehran on Wednesday, the airline offered five direct flights per week from the Iranian capital to Kiev. The airline flies a fleet of 35 Boeings and seven Embraer aircraft, according to its website.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said it had set up a crisis task eato and a telephone line in response to the accident.

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