BREAKING | Ukraine Airlines Boeing 737 crashes in Iran, 176 dead

Karolis Kavolelis,

Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed shortly after takeoff in Iran during the early morning hours of January 8, 2020. All 176 onboard the Boeing 737 were killed. 

The flight PS752 took off from Imam Khomeini Airport (IKA), in Tehran, Iran. Approximately 10 minutes after takeoff the airplane downed near the airport, bursting into flames. The flight, operated by a 737-800 (registration number UR-PSR), was bound to fly to Kiev, Ukraine. 

There were 167 passengers and nine crew on board, none of whom have survived. The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the death toll in a Facebook post, offering his “sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of all passengers and crew members.” It is the first fatal accident involving Ukraine International Airlines in its 25 years of existence.

The Iran Civil Aviation Organization has said most of the passengers on board the Boeing 737-800 were Iranian nationals, however, there were some foreign citizens as well. So far, the authority has not confirmed exactly how many of the passengers were Iranians and foreign nationals.

Preliminary information points to a technical problem with one of the two CFMI CFM56 engines, the Ukrainian embassy to Iran says. Ukraine International Airlines had the aircraft on lease from a leasing company. The three and a half years old airframe was assembled and delivered to the airline in July 2016. 

Update: Aviation authorities have launched an investigation to determine the causes of the accident. The investigation is going to be carried out by Ukrainian and Iranian aviation authorities with the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation of Civil Aviation and Incidents with Civilian Aircraft in Ukraine (NBRCA). Representatives of the aircraft manufacturer Boeing and Ukraine International Airlines are also expected to participate in the effort.

The country, in which a jet crashed, takes the lead of the investigation, while  the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) also participate to help local authorities if the accident involves an aircraft manufactured in the United States. 

However, with the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, after the U.S. killed an Iranian general on Baghdad International Airport (BGW) grounds and Iran’s retaliatory response, raise a question if the two U.S.agencies would be involved in the Iranian investigation. 

Another third party investigator such as the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) could be involved, as it was already the case with two previous Iranian crashes: Iran Aseman Airlines flight 3704 in 2018 and Kish Air flight 7170 in 2004.

The Embassy of Ukraine in the Islamic Republic of Iran has cautioned against premature speculation about the causes of the crash. “Any statements regarding the causes of the accident prior to the decision of the commission are not official,” its statement said.

Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) has confirmed that its aircraft was involved in the accident. It stated that the flight PS752 disappeared from the radar minutes after departing from Tehran International Airport (at 06:10 am local time). UIA outlined that 167 passengers and nine crew flew on the PS752 flight and that its employees were working to find out the exact number of passengers on board. Meanwhile, the embassy stated, citing information by UIA, that 168 people have actually purchased tickets for the flight, meaning that one person has missed the doomed flight.

The last scheduled maintenance of the Boeing 737-800 aircraft was carried out just two days prior the crash, on January 6, 2020, according to the airline.

“The airline expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the crash and will do everything possible to support the relatives and loved ones of the victims,” a statement by Ukraine International Airlines reads.

Boeing reacted on Twitter:

The airline has suspended all its flight to Tehran indefinitely.

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