16/10/2020

Tehran gives Ukrainian investigators access to plane’s recorders; any U.S. role in probe remains uncertain

Iran on Saturday said an Ukrainian airliner that crashed outside of an airport in Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, was shot down unintentionally by its armed forces, according to a statement by its armed forces on state television. The
Boeing Co.
737-800 jet crashed four hours after Iran had launched military strikes against the U.S. in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of a top general and the Middle Eastern state was on high alert for potential U.S. response. The plane approached a sensitive military base operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. and was downed due to human error, Irans general staff of the armed forces said in a statement on state television.On Friday, Tehran gave Ukrainian investigators access to the so-called black-box data and cockpit voice recorders from the Ukraine International Airlines airliner that crashed Wednesday, and Iranian investigators said they would be willing to hand them over to other countries as well for analysis.
Irans willingness to cooperate could help resolve an investigation that looked to be especially fraught, given the open hostilities between the U.S. and Tehran. Indeed, immediately after the crash, Iranian officials told local media that Irans civil aviation authority wouldnt provide Boeing Co. or the U.S. access to the black boxes from the Boeing 737-800 jet.
Iranian officials since have invited investigators from Boeing, the U.S., Ukraine, France and Canada to probe the causes of Wednesdays crash, which killed all people on board shortly after the jet took off from Tehran, including a number of Canadians.
Just hours before the jet crashed, Iran had launched missile strikes against two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops in retaliation for the targeted U.S. killing of Iranian
Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Ukraines foreign minister,
Vadym Prystaiko,
told reporters Friday that so far Iran has granted full access for Ukraine to conduct its investigation. A team of 45 Ukrainian experts and officials is on the ground in Tehran, Ukrainian officials said.
The group has gained access to the black boxes but hadnt started examining them, Mr. Prystaiko told reporters. Ukraine wants the recorders to be analyzed in Kyiv and is in talks with Iran over the matter. The team also is analyzing pieces of the plane and chemical compounds on the wreckage.
The Iranian investigation team said Friday it would first seek to analyze the black boxes in Iran. They could also be examined in Russia, Ukraine, France or Canada, four countries that had expressed a readiness to help, Iranian investigators said.
If we can do it ourselves, we will,
Ali Abedzadeh,
head of Irans Civil Aviation Organization, said during a news conference in Tehran. If not, we will definitely ask for assistance from other countries.
Short-range air-defense system designed for intercepting aircraft, missiles or other projectiles
11.5 feet
Max. altitude: 3.7 miles
Max. speed: 1,900 mph
Weight: 375 pounds
Range: 7.5 miles
Manufacturer: Russia
Operated by: Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran
Operational road range: 310.7 miles
Range of radar detection: 13.6 miles
Crew: 3-4 people
11.5 feet
Max. altitude: 3.7 miles
Max. speed: 1,900 mph
Weight: 375 pounds
Range: 7.5 miles
Manufacturer: Russia
Operated by: Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran
Operational road range: 310.7 miles
Range of radar detection: 13.6 miles
Crew: 3-4 people
Weight:
374.8 pounds
Range:
7.5 miles
Max. altitude:
3.7 miles
Max. speed:
1,800 mph
Manufacturer:
Russia
Operated by:
Islamic
Revolutionary
Guard Corps,
Iran
Operational road range: 310.7 miles
Range of radar detection: 13.6 miles
Crew: 3-4 people
U.S. industry and government officials say the Iranians have the ability to conduct routine downloads of black-box recorders, but are skeptical they have the technical expertise and experience to extract data from damaged devices.
Obtaining reliable data from such recorders, they said, requires specialized equipment, advanced laboratory facilities and staff with a record of dealing with unusual circumstances.
A U.S. official said that before the crash, the plane was tracked by Iranian radar used to aim missiles and was then hit by a Russian-made SA-15 surface-to-air missile system.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo
said the U.S. believed it was likely the Ukrainian airliner was shot down by an Iranian missile, and added that the U.S. would permit American investigators to travel to Iran to assist in the inquiry.
We are going to let the investigation play out before we make a final determination, Mr. Pompeo said. It is important we get to the bottom of it.
U.S. officials have shared information about the crash with Ukraine that will help the investigation, President
Volodymyr Zelensky
said Friday.
Ukraines prosecutor generals office on Friday asked the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. to share information and said it is conducting a criminal inquiry into the crash. Mr. Prystaiko, the foreign minister, said Ukraine will demand the prosecution of those responsible if it is confirmed that Iran shot down the plane.
A Ukraine-bound plane crashed after taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. The U.S. and its allies believe Iran downed the aircraftpossibly by accidentwhich Iran denies. Photo: Rouzbeh Fouladi/Zuma Press
Flight 752s path
TEHRAN
IMAM KHOMEINI
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
NASIMSHAHR
DEBRIS FIELD
5,800
Iranian officials said the plane started to turn back to the airport because of a technical fault
6,800
7,350
Range of the SA-15
missile (12 km)
Tehran
PARAND
IRAN
DEBRIS FIELD
Note: All times are local. Flight path after last signal is unknown.
Flight path
10 miles
Sources: Flightradar24 (flight path); Google (image)
Renée Rigdon and Todd Lindeman/The Wall Street Journal
10 km
TEHRAN
IMAM KHOMEINI
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
NASIMSHAHR
DEBRIS FIELD
5,800
6,800
Iranian officials said the plane started to turn back to the airport because of a technical fault
7,350
PARAND
Range of the SA-15
missile (12 km)
Tehran
Note: All times are local. Flight path after last signal is unknown.
IRAN
DEBRIS FIELD
Sources: Flightradar24 (flight path); Google (image)
Renée Rigdon and Todd Lindeman/The Wall Street Journal
Flight path
10 miles
10 km
TEHRAN
IMAM KHOMEINI
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
NASIMSHAHR
DEBRIS FIELD
5,800
6,800
Iranian officials said the plane started to turn back to the airport because of a technical fault
7,350
PARAND
Range of the SA-15
missile (12 km)
Tehran
IRAN
Note: All times are local. Flight path after last signal is unknown.
DEBRIS FIELD
Sources: Flightradar24 (flight path); Google (image)
Renée Rigdon and Todd Lindeman/The Wall Street Journal
Flight path
10 miles
10 km
Range of the SA-15
missile (12 km)
Tehran
IRAN
DEBRIS FIELD
Flight path
10 miles
10 km
IMAM KHOMEINI
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
TEHRAN
DEBRIS FIELD
6,800
7,350
PARAND
Iranian officials said the plane started to turn back to the airport because of a technical fault
Note: All times are local. Flight path after last signal is unknown.
Sources: Flightradar24 (flight path); Google (image)
Renée Rigdon and Todd Lindeman/The Wall Street Journal
Irans Mr. Abedzadeh called on Western officials to make public their missile-strike allegations via the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization, a global body that sets conventions for air-accident investigations.
The plane was aflame as it attempted to return to Imam Khomeini International Airport, he said. That indicated it wasnt shot down by a missile, he said.
It isnt yet clear how much of a role U.S. investigators will play. U.S. sanctions on Iran mean Americans investigators need clearance from Washington to visit the Middle East state.
The National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. entity tasked with transport-accident investigations, said it is monitoring the situation and evaluating its level of participation. Boeing has started preparing the necessary paperwork and has been in touch with both the State and Commerce departments, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Investigations into commercial airliner crashes usually require coordination among international groups. But suspicions that Iranian missiles downed a Ukrainian plane are complicating the investigation into the crash. Photo: AFP via Getty Images
In the normal course of an investigation, some level of participation would also be expected from the Federal Aviation Administration and
General Electric Co.,
which made the planes engines with a French joint-venture partner.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Do you think Iran can work together with the U.S. and other countries to determine the cause of the Ukrainian flight crash? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.
Canadawhich said late Friday it lost 57 citizens in the crash, down from its earlier statement of 63has vowed to work with international partners to ensure it is thoroughly investigated. Iran said Friday a 10-member Canadian team was heading to the country to manage the affairs of its citizens killed in the crash.
Frances aviation safety agency, the BEA, has appointed a preliminary representative to Irans investigation into the crash, but hasnt been asked for assistance in the investigation. The U.K. issued an advisory to airlines against operating in airspace over both Iraq and Iran.
If the inquiry verifies that an Iranian missile brought down the plane, it wouldnt be the first time tensions between the U.S. and Iran have led to an aviation tragedy. In 1988, the U.S. Navys Vincennes warship downed Iran Air Flight 655 with an air-defense missile.
U.S. officials said they mistook the Airbus SE A300 airliner for a warplane they feared would attack the ship. All 290 people, mostly Iranian, on the plane died, prompting an outpouring of national grief in Iran.
—Rory Jones and Sune Engel Rasmussen contributed to this article.
Write to Georgi Kantchev at georgi.kantchev@wsj.com
Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8